Poor Neighborhoods Produce Fewer Graduates

Home environment significantly increases chances for high school dropout

(RxWiki News) It's no secret that growing up in poverty has a huge negative impact on children, in many ways. Their education suffers, often because of lower quality schools and the challenges that poverty brings.

But the devastating impact that growing up in a poor neighborhood actually has on children's futures may be widely underestimated.

"Keep focused on school challenges, your child depends upon it."

A study led by sociologists at the University of Michigan and University of Wisconsin-Madison is the first research to provide an in-depth snapshot of the long-term impact of growing up in some of America's most disadvantaged neighborhoods. The impact is particularly devastating on one key outcome - graduating from high school.

For a child who lives in a poor neighborhood, his chances of graduating high school are significantly reduced; and the longer the child lives in that kind of neighborhood, the more harmful the impact.

The study followed 2,093 children from the age of one until they were 17 years old, assessing the neighborhoods in which they lived every year. This differed from previous research which looked at only a single point in time. Researchers found that growing up in neighborhoods with high levels of poverty, unemployment and female-headed households had a high impact on finishing high school, but also that the impact was more severe for black children than for white children.

Black children from the poorest neighborhoods had a 76 percent chance of high school graduation, compared to a 96 percent chance for kids who grow up in affluent neighborhoods. The graduation chance for white children growing up in poverty was reduced to 87 percent.

“We found that black and white children had starkly different patterns of exposure to bad neighborhoods over the long term,” says Geoffrey Wodtke from the University of Michigan. “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.”

The results indicate that sustained exposure to disadvantaged neighborhoods has a much greater negative impact on children, particularly in regards to their education, than previous research has suggested. Researchers said that a lasting commitment to neighborhood improvement and income desegregation would be necessary to resolve the problems shown in this study.

The findings were published in the October 2011 issue of the American Sociological Review.

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Review Date: 
October 10, 2011