Children Living In Low-Income Neighborhoods Less Likely To Graduate High School: Study

Children that grow up in poor neighborhoods have a significantly reduced chance of graduating from high school, according to a study in the October issue of the American Sociological Review.

Black children who grow up in neighborhoods with high levels of poverty and unemployment have a 76 percent chance of graduating from high school, compared to a 96 percent chance for black students living in affluent neighborhoods, the study found. White children living in low-income neighborhoods have an 87 percent chance of graduating high school compared with a 95 percent high school graduation rate for white children living in affluent neighborhoods.

The study also found that black children “were about seven times more likely than white children to experience long-term residence in the most disadvantaged 20 percent of neighborhoods in the country," according to Geoffrey Wodtke, a University of Michigan sociologist and one of the co-authors of the study.

Researchers used data from the University of Michigan's Institute of Social Research's Panel Study of Income Dynamics to follow more than 2,000 children from age one through 17 and assessed the neighborhoods they lived in every year.

"The current findings demonstrate the importance of neighborhoods throughout childhood, and resonate with evidence from several other studies suggesting that residence in disadvantaged neighborhoods may have a negative effect on the cognitive development of children many years or even generations later," said David Harding, a University of Michigan sociologist and one of the study’s lead researchers.

The researchers described a neighborhood as disadvantaged if it had high levels of poverty, unemployment, welfare receipt and female-headed households as well as low levels of educated adults.

The study's findings may apply to a increasingly high numbers of children. One in four American children under six are living in poverty, according to researchers from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

The American Sociological Review study findings parallel those of other research, which indicates that high levels of unemployment and poverty can affect children's classroom performance. Heather Hill, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, found that low-income children have 40 percent more classroom behavior problems if their mom is out of work for a prolonged period, according to The Chicago Tribune.

The Great Recession elevated the number of children living in these conditions, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The share of American children living with an unemployed or under-employed parent rose to 18.3 percent in 2010 from 9.1 percent in 2007, the group found.

Twenty-five percent of children in black and Hispanic families had an unemployed or underemployed parent, according to the Economic Policy Institute and high black unemployment is dispersed across a variety of U.S. metropolitan areas.

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