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Neighborhoods and the Black-White Mobility Gap

Patrick Sharkey

One of the most powerful findings of the Economic Mobility Project’s research to date has been the striking mobility gap between blacks and whites in America. This report explores one potentially important factor behind the black-white mobility gap: the impact of neighborhood poverty rates experienced during childhood. Using the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), the report focuses on blacks and whites born from 1955-1970, following them from childhood into adulthood. The first section of the paper investigates relative intergenerational mobility; whether neighborhood poverty in childhood impacts the ability of both black and white adults to move up or down the income ladder relative to the position their parents held. The second section investigates whether changes in neighborhood poverty rates experienced by black children affected their adult incomes, earnings, and wealth. Finally, the third section provides an overview of the possible policy implications of the results.

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PDF icon PEW_SHARKEY_v12.pdf1.87 MB