Friday, August 18, 2017

Poor children growing up in rural areas are more likely to marry young

A new study says that where you grow up has a big impact on when you're likely to marry. The findings were part of a larger study of income tax records by Stanford University economist Raj Chetty and Harvard University economist Nathaniel Hendren. They studied how growing up in different counties affected poor children. "In general, the longer a child spends growing up in a rural community, the more likely he or she is to be married at age 26. Poor children who grow up in nine out of ten rural counties will marry at rates above the national average at age 26," Bill Bishop reports for The Daily Yonder. The study also found that children who grow up in rural areas are more likely to make a higher income than average at the age of 26.
Daily Yonder graphic
Both future income and marriage rates are partially determined by what Chetty and Hendren called "neighborhood effects", which means the general characteristics of neighborhoods that can influence children for better or worse. Rural areas tend to be less segregated, have greater community involvement from churches and civic organizations, lower crime rates, higher voting rates, and better schools. Rural young people are especially more likely to marry young in communities with more two-parent families and higher church attendance. There are political differences between rural and urban counties as well. "Clinton won the counties with neighborhood effects that result in lower than average marriage rates, 59% to 36%. Trump won the half of the country living in communities where children from poor families are more likely to marry by 56% to 37%," Bishop reports.

But the rural areas that promote earlier marriage and better income tend to be only incubators because there are far fewer high-earning jobs available. In other words, when those rural children grow up, they're likely to need to take their spouse and move to a more urban area that has more jobs available. Chetty and Hendren say they hope families will consider moving their children to rural areas to increase opportunity. "And governments and nonprofits could make investments in communities that would enhance those neighborhood effects that have been shown to be so beneficial, such as reducing segregation and increasing social capital," Bishop writes.

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