Monday, October 18, 2010

Neighborhoods Hurt Students More Than Income

Most people might assume that children who grow up in disadvantaged communities are at higher risks of many unfortunate outcomes, including problems with cognitive development that lead to learning problems. However, researchers at the University of Chicago wanted to determine whether children of families living in the same communities but whose family incomes were higher had better results.

The research suggests that the neighborhood itself (rather than household income) was the most important in determining outcomes for children.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, followed families over a six year period as they moved in and out of what were considered disadvantaged neighborhoods in Chicago. Neighborhoods were defined as disadvantaged based on their rates of welfare receipt, poverty, unemployment, female-headed household, racial composition and number of children per household.

The research revealed that regardless of whether the families were low or middle-income families, the neighborhood played a more significant role in the development of verbal skills than did economic inequality. Additionally, the researchers reported that living in severely disadvantaged neighborhoods lowered verbal test scores by the equivalent of missing one year of schooling. The strongest effects continued to appear after children had lived in these communities several years.

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