Being raised in a poor neighborhood plays a major role in explaining why middle class African American children are far more likely than white children to slip down the income ladder as adults, according to new findings from the Pew Charitable Trusts Economic Mobility Project reported in this morning’s Washington Post.
Using a study that has tracked more than 5,000 families since 1968, the Pew research found that no other factor, including parents’ education, employment or marital status, was as important as neighborhood poverty in explaining why black children were so much more likely than whites to lose income as adults.
The study points out that middle-class blacks are “far more likely than whites to live in high-poverty neighborhoods, which has a negative effect on even the better-off children raised there.” The Post reports two out of three black children are raised in neighborhoods with at least a 20 percent poverty rate, compared with just 6 percent of white children.
Even middle-class black children have been more likely to grow up in poor neighborhoods: Half of black children born between 1955 and 1970 in families with incomes of $62,000 or higher in today’s dollars grew up in high-poverty neighborhoods. But virtually no white middle-income children grew up in poor areas.