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Where You Grow Up Affects Whether You Can Get Out Of Poverty

Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren

A recent study showed that children who grow up in poverty have a better shot at economic mobility depending on where they live.

The study, by economists Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren of Harvard University, was based on earning records for millions of families and is part of an ongoing effort called The Equality of Opportunity Project.

"We show that the area in which a child grow up has significant causal effects on her prospects for upward mobility," the report states.

And while Cook County, which contains Chicago, did poorly in the assessment, west suburban DuPage County was the one in the nation "with the best odds for escaping poverty," according to The New York Times report on the study.

The study found the city of Baltimore to the place with the worst odds of leaving poverty.

"The data shows we can do something about upward mobility,'' the Times quoted Chetty. "Every extra year spent in a better neighborhood seems to matter."

Whether a child is male or female is a part of the outcome, too."All else equal, low-income boys who grow up in such areas earn about 35 percent less on average than otherwise similar low-income children who grow up in the best areas for mobility. For girls, the gap is closer to 25 percent," the Times reported.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and covering the equity beat. Maureen joined the Illinois Issues in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
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