Friday, November 17, 2023

Kids who grew up poor in rural areas fair better later in life than urban kids, a study shows. Researchers look at why.

Two-parent households may give rural kids an
advantage. (Photo by Arseny Togulev, Unsplash)
Researchers looked at income outcomes for children who grew up poor in rural areas compared to their urban counterparts and found a surprising difference: rural children tended to earn more later in life, reports Sarah Melotte of The Daily Yonder. "Authors of a new study on social mobility found rural children born in poverty gain higher incomes as adults compared to low-income urban children. . . . Factors like community trust, social capital, and the rate of two-parent households help explain more upward social mobility, or positive change in one's economic status, among rural children born into poverty, according to a 2023 study." 

The study's lead researcher, Dylan Connor, an associate professor at Arizona State University, told Melotte, "People have noticed this rural advantage but haven't really been able to explain it. The conventional thing that people have said is that conditions are so bad in these rural places that kids grow up and leave. . . . Rural places actually seem quite favorable compared to urban places." Melotte adds, "In response to this trend, Connor and other researchers think it's important to look at places that are still delivering opportunity and to try to determine what characteristics of those places make them favorable."

A defining advantage that rural children have is more two-parent families. "Connor and his colleagues found that rural children in poverty achieved higher incomes as adults than urban children in poverty did. One explanation is that a greater share of rural children are born into two-parent households," Melotte explains. "The rural advantage doesn't just apply to the people who grew up in a rural community but moved to a city as adults. The study demonstrated that both low-income children who remained in a rural community through adulthood and those who left experienced an income advantage compared to their urban-born peers."

The study also revealed a rural bias that favored male income and opportunities. "On some measures of income attainment, girls born in low-income households don’t benefit from the same rural advantage as boys," Melotte reports. "With personal income – which refers to the incomes of each adult member of the household, not their combined incomes – women earned significantly less than their male peers. . . . Disparities in personal income between men and women are greater in rural areas than they are in urban ones." Connor told Melotte: "Women actually seem to benefit from growing up in a city in terms of pursuing their own careers and so on.”

No comments: