Thursday, September 13, 2018

Study: Rural childhood makes future success more likely, but rural and urban areas need different strategies for kids

Impact of county residence on children's future earnings
Daily Yonder map by Dave Mistich of with data from Equality of Opportunity Project
Last year a Stanford University study found that children who grow up in America's most rural areas are more likely to earn more money as adults. A recent Penn State study corroborates the Stanford findings, reports Kristen Devlin of Penn State News: "The farther away from a city a person is raised, the more likely they are to climb the economic ladder."

The study also found that five "community characteristics associated with upward mobility have different effects in rural and urban locations." Kids are more likely to succeed if they live in a community with fewer single-mother households, a lower high-school dropout rate, lower income inequality, a greater share of jobs with commutes of 15 minutes or less, and more social capital (loosely defined as the networks of relationships in a community).

The researchers found that short commutes helped rural counties much more than they helped urban counties, while higher dropout rates hurt urban areas more than rural ones. But "the researchers found that there are different factors at work in the metro counties, such as better public services, including child care and transportation, that are helping to buffer the negative effects of single-mother households and income inequality," Devlin reports. Only social capital helps rural and urban counties at about the same rate.

Stephan Goetz, a Penn State professor of agricultural and regional economics, director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, and study co-author, told Devlin the study proves that different approaches are needed to help children succeed: "There are different factors at work in rural and urban places . . . If we want to enhance the upward income mobility of low-income youth, we need place-based policies that specifically address these differences."

The study used data from the Equality of Opportunity Project, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. Bill Bishop reported on the Stanford study for The Daily Yonder, which highlights the Penn State study today.

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