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Why Neighborhoods Matter: Study Details 'Upward Mobility' For Some Kids, Bad News for Others

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Location, location, location.

A comprehensive new study—dubbed "Moving to Opportunity"—details the best and worst places to grow up in America. Simply put, children growing up in some U.S. communities go on to earn more, and in some cases much more, than they would if they had grown up elsewhere. The study is chronicled in this morning's New York Times.

"This delivers the most compelling evidence yet that neighborhoods matter in a really big way," David Grusky, director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Stanford University, told the Times.

One of the study's authors, Harvard professor Raj Chetty, added, "Every extra year of childhood spent in a better neighborhood seems to matter."

For example, the study says, "Ada County is pretty bad for income mobility for children in poor families." The study says Ada County is below average, "ranking 843rd out of 2,478 counties, better than only about 34 percent of the counties." And it's relatively worse for poor boys than it is for poor girls. The study estimates that poor kids ultimately earn about $190 less than the national average. But that number skyrockets to $1,450 less for poor boys. For average-income kids in Ada County, the study estimates that they'll earn about $1,550 less than the national average; and for rich kids, it's estimated that they'l earn about $2,810 less than the national average. For kids who are living in the top 1 percent, it's estimated that they'll earn about $3,600 less than the national average.

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Researchers pointed to five factors for what they called "strong upward mobility:"
  • less segregation by income and race
  • lower levels of income inequality
  • better schools
  • lower rates of violent crime
  • a larger share of two-parent households

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