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Racial and Ethnic Inequality in the Duration of Children's Exposure to Neighborhood Poverty and Affluence

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Despite much scholarly attention to "neighborhood effects" on children, no study to date has measured the cumulative exposure of children to neighborhood poverty and affluence. In this article, I estimate racial and ethnic inequality in the amount of time children can expect to live in poor and nonpoor neighborhoods throughout childhood. At rates prevailing in the early- to mid-1990s, the average black child can expect to spend about 50 percent of her first 18 years in neighborhoods with poverty rates in excess of 20 percent. The corresponding figures for Latino and white children are about 40 percent and 5 percent, respectively. I find that black/white differences in childhood exposure to neighborhood poverty are largely accounted for by differences in the probability of being born into a poor neighborhood, and to a lesser degree by differences in rates of upward and downward neighborhood mobility during childhood. Finally, cross-period analyses indicate that white children's share of childhood in the most affluent neighborhood type increased steadily beginning in the late 1980s and that black children's exposure to the poorest neighborhood type increased rapidly in the mid-1980s and then declined sharply throughout the first half of the 1990s.
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... Despite a growing body of research on neighborhood selection processes, the existing literature has only begun to explore the role of individuals' neighborhood residential history (Krysan and Crowder 2017;Sharkey 2013). And, although it is well documented that African Americans are much more likely than whites to spend prolonged periods living in poor neighborhoods (Sharkey 2008;Timberlake 2007), little research has examined whether these racial differences in neighborhood history contribute to the pronounced racial differences in inter-neighborhood migration patterns. Drawing on the life-course perspective, we address these gaps by using data from Panel Study of Income Dynamics and several U.S. censuses to explore the effect of neighborhood residential histories on the likelihood of moving between poor and non-poor neighborhoods. ...
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... These findings are consistent with the scenario that nonwhite children, particularly black children, get locked into structural forces that generate systematic dynamics, such as disinvestment and disorder, that in turn may contribute to further disadvantages in health and wellbeing over the life course. Our findings resonate with the large volume of studies that underscore the persistent racial inequalities in neighborhood conditions (Pais et al. 2014;Sampson 2009;South and Crowder, 1997;Swisher et al. 2013;Timberlake 2007). ...
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"The Truly Disadvantagedshould spur critical thinking in many quarters about the causes and possible remedies for inner city poverty. As policy makers grapple with the problems of an enlarged underclass they—as well as community leaders and all concerned Americans of all races—would be advised to examine Mr. Wilson's incisive analysis."—Robert Greenstein,New York Times Book Review "'Must reading' for civil-rights leaders, leaders of advocacy organizations for the poor, and for elected officials in our major urban centers."—Bernard C. Watson,Journal of Negro Education "Required reading for anyone, presidential candidate or private citizen, who really wants to address the growing plight of the black urban underclass."—David J. Garrow,Washington Post Book World Selected by the editors of theNew York Times Book Reviewas one of the sixteen best books of 1987. Winner of the 1988 C. Wright Mills Award of the Society for the Study of Social Problems.
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