Dear Commons Community,
Yesterday, the Census Bureau, in collaboration with researchers at Harvard and Brown, published nationwide data that will make it possible to pinpoint — down to the census tract, a level relevant to individual families — where children of all backgrounds have the best shot at getting ahead. The new study entitled, The Opportunity Atlas Mapping the Childhood Roots of Social Mobility (October 2018) by Raj Chetty, John Friedman, & Nathaniel Hendren (Opportunity Insights) Maggie Jones and Sonya Porter (U.S. Census Bureau) provides a treasure trove of data on the impact of neighborhoods on social mobility. Here is an excerpt from the executive summary.
“Which neighborhoods in America offer children the best chances of climbing the income ladder? To answer this question, we construct the Opportunity Atlas, a freely available interactive mapping tool that traces the roots of outcomes such as poverty and incarceration back to the neighborhoods in which children grew up. Using the Atlas, you can see exactly where and for whom opportunity is lacking in your community and develop customized solutions to improve children’s outcomes. The Opportunity Atlas is built using anonymized data on 20 million Americans who are in their mid-thirties today. We map these individuals back to the Census tract (geographic units consisting of about 4,200 people) in which they grew up. Then, for each of the 70,000 tracts in America, we estimate children’s average earnings, incarceration rates, and other outcomes by their parental income level, race, and gender. The new data yield several insights into how neighborhoods shape children’s trajectories.
Finding 1: Children’s outcomes in adulthood vary sharply across neighborhoods that are just a mile or two apart.
Finding 2: Places that have good outcomes for one racial group do not always have good outcomes for others.
Finding 3: Moving to a better neighborhood earlier in childhood can increase a child’s income by several thousand dollars Children who move to high-upward.
Finding 4: Traditional indicators of local economic success such as job growth do not always translate into greater upward mobility.
Finding 5: Historical data on children’s outcomes are a useful predictor of children’s prospects for upward mobility today.
Finding 6: The new data uncover “opportunity bargains” – affordable neighborhoods that produce good outcomes for children.”
Raj Chetty and his colleagues have made an incredible contribution to our understanding of social mobility. The graphics above and below come from the study’s website.