Growing up poor and male in Baltimore — more than any among the largest 100 cities in the United States — almost guarantees a bleaker economic future, a new report concludes.
“Areas with high degrees of segregation and sprawl generate particularly negative outcomes for boys,” wrote Harvard economists Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren in the study.
Children play basketball at a park near blighted row houses in Baltimore, Monday, April 1, 2013. Baltimore is far from the worst American city for poverty, but it faces all the problems of cities where vast numbers of the poor now live. The U.S. Census Bureau puts the number of Americans in poverty at levels not seen since the mid-1960s, while $85 billion in federal government spending cuts that began last month are expected to begin squeezing services for the poor nationwide. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
In Baltimore, boys who grow up in below-median income households earn 1.4 percent less in adult family income for each year that they’re exposed to the neighborhood. So, a man who spent the first two decades of his life in Baltimore would earn about 28 percent less compared to the national average earned by other adults.
For girls the adverse outcome is not as drastic, as those living in lower-income households accrue about 0.3 percent in lost earnings per childhood year spent in Baltimore.
“Low-income children are most likely to succeed in counties that have less concentrated poverty, less income inequality, better schools, a larger share of two-parent families, and lower crime rates,” the study added.
Sadly, Baltimore misses the mark on many of those factors–a situation highlighted by the riots that erupted in April 2015 after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray a the hands of police.
Last year, for example, Charm City experienced its bloodiest year with 344 murders, the highest per capita murder rate the city had experienced and one of three highest in the nation. Many of the victims were young Black men and boys.
“If you have impoverished communities that have been stripped away of opportunity, where children are born into abject poverty; they’ve got parents — often because of substance-abuse problems or incarceration or lack of education themselves — can’t do right by their kids; if it’s more likely that those kids end up in jail or dead, than they go to college; in communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men; communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing has been stripped away; and drugs have flooded the community, and the drug industry ends up being the primary employer for a whole lot of folks — in those environments,” incidents like the Baltimore unrest are likely to happen, President Obama said in a press conference three days after Gray’s funeral.
“If we think that we’re just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without as a nation and as a society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity, then we’re not going to solve this problem, he added.
In addition to Baltimore, Jefferson, Ala., and Riverside, Calif., were places where children of low-income families suffered similarly poorer outcomes in adulthoods, the study found.
Conversely, Bergen, N.J., and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland were among the top 25 largest counties with the highest upward mobility–for both indigent and affluent children.
The study’s conclusion was that a child’s environment does have a significant impact on his or her access to economic opportunity. And, that earlier exposure to better neighborhoods results in higher earnings in the future. Chetty and Hendren arrived at their findings by studying 5 million families who moved to different large counties and commuter zones.