Where You Grow Up Matters

UNITED STATES

New studies show that where poor kids grow up has a huge effect on how much money they earn as adults. How does your county measure up? (New York Times)

“Neighborhoods matter in a really big way,” says one researcher. Use our resources to better understand neighborhoods.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

Does a region’s median household income correlate to upward mobility? To investigate, compare the New York Times interactive map of earning potential and this ArcGIS map of median household income, both assessed at the county level.

Does a region’s median household income correlate to upward mobility? To investigate, compare the New York Times interactive map of earning potential and this ArcGIS map of median household income, both assessed at the county level.

Discussion Ideas

 

  • Economists say the new study suggests that “geography does not merely separate rich from poor but also plays a large role in determining which poor children achieve the so-called American dream.” What is the American Dream?
    • Broadly, the American Dream is a set of ideals including personal freedom, justice, and the opportunity for economic and social prosperity. (Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness . . ?) Upward mobility is a vital part of the American Dream.
    • This is a great quote: “[T]that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. . . . It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

 

  • Read through the NYT article. How does race contribute to the conversation about geography and upward mobility?
    • According to the Times, “The places where poor children face the worst odds include some—but not all—of the nation’s largest urban areas . . . Many of these places have large African-American populations, and the findings suggest that race plays an enormous but complex role in upward mobility. The nation’s legacy of racial inequality appears to affect all low-income children who live in heavily black areas: Both black and white children seem to have longer odds of reaching the middle class, and both seem to benefit from moving to better neighborhoods.”

 

  • What are some characteristics of “better neighborhoods”—ones that provide the most opportunity for upward mobility?
    • According to the Times, “They have elementary schools with higher test scores, a higher share of two-parent families, greater levels of involvement in civic and religious groups and more residential integration of affluent, middle-class and poor families.” It is this last characteristic—economic integration—that poor families profiled in the article cite as crucial to upward mobility.

 

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

New York Times: An Atlas of Upward Mobility Shows Paths Out of Poverty

New York Times: The Best and Worst Places to Grow Up: How Your Area Compares map

ArcGIS: USA Median Household Income map

Nat Geo: What is a neighborhood?

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