October 27, 2016
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Growing Up in High-Poverty Neighborhoods PEW Report


Growing Up in High-Poverty Neighborhoods Strongly Increases the Risk of Downward Mobility for Children of Middle-Income Black Families


Today, Pew's Economic Mobility Project (EMP) releasedNeighborhoods and the Black-White Mobility Gap, a new report authored by New York University sociologist, Patrick Sharkey, that explores the degree to which neighborhood poverty rates explain the black-white downward mobility gap. Previously, the project found that children of middle-income African-American parents are significantly more likely than white middle-income children to fall to the bottom of the income ladder over a generation.


Today's report finds that growing up in a high-poverty neighborhood increases the risk of experiencing downward mobility and explains a sizable portion of the black-white downward mobility gap:


♦ Nearly half of black children born into families who are at least middle-income ($62,000 or more) were raised in a high-poverty neighborhood (i.e., at least 20 percent poverty), compared to just one percent of middle-income white children.

 Spending childhood in a high-poverty neighborhood versus a low-poverty neighborhood (i.e., less than 10 percent poverty) increases the likelihood of being downwardly mobile by 52 percent.

♦ Neighborhood poverty explains a significant porton (between one-quarter and one-third) of the black-white gap in downward mobility, which is more than the combined effect of family characteristics, including parental education, family structure, occupation and labor force participation.

 Black children who grew up in neighborhoods that saw a decline in poverty had better economic outcomes than those who grew up in neighborhoods with stable or increasing poverty.


The data suggest that public policy efforts that focus on investing in disadvantaged neighborhoods and reducing the concentration of poverty could enhance economic mobility for all children in those neighborhoods and narrow the black-white mobility gap. 


The report used data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics on blacks and whites born from 1955-1970, following them from childhood to adulthood.  A restricted-use "geocode" file was made available to the author and allowed him to link sample members to their respective neighborhoods, or census tracts. 


To view the press release, click here.


To download the full report, click here.


Also today, Pew's report was the focus of a story in the Washington Post. Read the articlehere.


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