Local Counties Offer Upward Mobility, Advantages To Poor Children Moving Here

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Pa. (EYT) – “It’s a good place to grow up,” is often said about living in Clarion, Jefferson, and Venango counties, but recent national research by Harvard professors document income mobility and other advantages of where people live.

The location matters enormously where a child lives in looking at different factors by the time they turn 26 years of age, including less likely to become single parents, more likely to go to college, and more likely to learn more.

A new study by Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren sheds a new light on how people may think about poverty in the United States.

(Photo: A breakdown of how every county in the nation fares can be found here in an on-line presentation in the New York Times, The Upshot.)

• Clarion County is better than about 83 percent of counties and suggests that every year a poor child spends in Clarion County adds about $160 to his or her annual household income at age 26 when compared with a childhood in an average American county. Projecting ahead to age 20, the study says the difference adds up to 12 percent of $3,100 more in average income as a young adult.

• Jefferson County is also a good for the same type of mobility and is better than about 80 percent of counties. Every year a poor child spends in Jefferson County adds about $140 to his or her annual household income at age 26. Over the course of the childhood, it all ads up to $2,900 or 11 percent.

• Venango County is listed as about average for income mobility of children in poor families and is better than about 44 percent of other counties. Venango ranks 1,087th out of 2,478 counties.

• No numbers were included for Forest County.

The researchers identified five factors associated with strong upward mobility such as: less segregation by income and race, lower levels of income inequality, better schools, lower rates of violent crime, and a larger share of two-parent households. The differences are pronounced with younger children, and suggests the location benefits are sharper for boys than for girls and relates more for lower-income children than for rich.

“We find that every year of exposure to a better environment improves a child’s chances of success, both in a national quasi-experimental study of five million families and in a re-analysis of the Moving to Opportunity Experiment,” write Chetty and Hendren. “We use the new methodology and data to present estimates of the causal effect of each county in America on upward mobility.”

The study also changes how officials have looked at poverty in the past.

“Our results provide less support for policies that seek to improve the economic outcomes of adults through residential relocation. More broadly, our findings suggest that efforts to integrate disadvantaged families into mixed-income communities are likely to reduce the persistence of poverty across generations.”

More information and executive reports of studies by the The Equality of Opportunity Project here.

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