HOUSTON — The percentage of children growing up in a poor neighborhood is at a decade-high — an alarming surge following the Great Recession, a new study finds.
Researchers at Rice University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Wisconsin looked at data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, examining the socioeconomic backgrounds of kindergarteners from 1998 to 2010.
Data shows that more children from backgrounds that previously weren’t considered poor were residing in high-poverty neighborhood since the Great Recession. In 1998, 36 percent of American kindergarteners grew up in a high-poverty neighborhood. By 2010, this figure had shot up to nearly 44 percent, the researchers found.
To be clear, the researchers identified four different socioeconomic groups for the families and communities of young children, three of which signified an impoverished background.
These were: high-poverty neighborhoods (communities in which over 40 percent of residents live below the federal poverty line); moderate-high-poverty neighborhoods (20 to 39.9 percent of residents are under the poverty line); moderate-low-poverty neighborhoods (14 to 19.9 percent of residents are under the poverty line); and low-poverty neighborhoods (less than 13.9 percent of residents are under the poverty line).
Interestingly, the demographic that saw the biggest shift in terms of living in an impoverished area were non-Hispanic whites.
By 2010, these children were 13.2 percent more likely to live in a community in which at least 14 percent of households were under the poverty line, when compared to 1998.
Meanwhile, black and Hispanic children were 4.1 and 5 percent more likely to live in a more impoverished neighborhood by 2010, respectively.
Rachel Kimbro, one of the study’s lead authors, explains that these figures do not imply that the lots of minority children necessarily got better. Rather, the families of white children simply experienced a more dramatic dropoff in well-being.
“Although post-recession, more white kids were living in higher poverty neighborhoods, minority children are still significantly more likely overall to live in higher poverty neighborhoods,” she says in a university press release.
It remains unclear as to whether this increase in poorer households in the result of stagnating incomes or the migration of more well-to-do families into less wealthy neighborhoods.
Whatever the cause, the results are dangerous, particularly considering the established links between high levels of poverty and poor levels of academic achievement.
“Regardless of individual family income, there is something about living in a higher poverty neighborhood that negatively affects education outcomes,” Kimbro states. “This is a topic that should be of great concern for educators and policymakers alike.”
The researchers hope that their findings will spur those groups— policymakers and educators— to further help underachieving students.
The study’s findings were published in the August 2017 edition of the journal Children and Youth Services Review.