Neighborhoods and the Black-White Mobility Gap
The neighborhood poverty experienced by middle-income black children contributes greatly to their increased risk of downward mobility, according to a new report released today by Pew's Economic Mobility Project.
Neighborhoods and the Black-White Mobility Gap, authored by New York University sociologist Patrick Sharkey, points to a great disparity between the neighborhood poverty rates experienced by middle-income black children and white children: nearly half of black children born into families who are at least middle income ($62,000 or more) were raised in neighborhoods with a poverty rate of 20% or more, compared to just 1% of white children of the same income level.
"Neighborhoods matter -- and matter significantly for the mobility prospects of Americans, said John E. Morton, managing director of Pew's Economic Policy Department. "But black children from middle-income families who often live in poorer neighborhoods have a much higher likelihood of falling down the ladder as adults. Unfortunately, these same neighborhoods have been among the hardest hit in the current recession."
The report also finds that spending childhood in a high-poverty neighborhood (poverty rate of at least 20%) versus a low-poverty neighborhood (poverty rate of less than 10%), raises the chances of downward mobility by 52%. Furthermore, the effect of neighborhood poverty alone accounts for a greater portion of the black-white gap than the combined effect of family characteristics including parental education, family structure, occupation and labor force participation.
"Most research examining the mechanisms by which economic and social status are transmitted from parents to children focuses on factors within the home, the workplace or the individual," said Sharkey. "These data provide support for the idea that neighborhoods, communities and metropolitan areas are central to processes of economic mobility."
Comprised of a Principals' Group of experts from the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Heritage Foundation, the New America Foundation, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and the Urban Institute, with guidance from an Advisory Board of leading academics and economists, Pew's Economic Mobility Project seeks to investigate the health and status of the American Dream.