A new study on upward economic mobility reported in the New York Times indicated that growing up in Fayette County is a relatively good proposition for the future income of children in lower income families.
The study by Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren examined the relationship between the county in which children were raised and their average household income as adults. As the Atlanta-Journal Constitution highlighted Tuesday, the data showed Fayette County is a particularly favorable place to grow up, particularly for children in low income families. Among metro Atlanta counties, the data showed that growing up in Fayette County had the greatest positive effect on future income of poor boys and girls than did growing up in any other metro county.
The data showed, according to the New York Times analysis, that the positive effects of growing up in a certain county (or negative effects) accumulate, meaning poorer children moving to favorable counties like Fayette will generally accrue greater benefits the longer they spend their childhood in this places.
For Fayette County, the Times said each year a poor child spends here will increase their future annual household income at age 26 by $140 compared to a child raised in an average U.S. county. This comes out to around a $2,800 difference in annual household income by age 26 for an adult that spent a “full childhood” in Fayette County as compared to the average county.
The study apparently refutes some previous findings on upward economic mobility and suggests that living in certain counties can have a causal impact on future income.
Fayette County compares favorably not only to metro Atlanta counties but to all U.S. counties, especially for poor families. While the study showed many of the counties that have the worst outlook for poor families are concentrated in the south, Fayette stands out as having a better outlook than roughly 79-percent of all U.S. counties for boys and girls in households that fall in the lowest 25-percent of annual income.
In a summary of the study, the authors said the “broader lesson of our analysis is that social mobility should be tackled at a local level by improving childhood environments.”
The authors noted that the study did not “directly identify which policies are most successful in achieving this goal, but our findings provide support for policies that reduce segregation and concentrated poverty in cities (e.g., affordable housing subsidies or changes in zoning laws) as well as efforts to improve public schools.”
The authors identified five characteristics of counties like Fayette with higher rates of upward mobility: “They have less segregation by income and race, lower levels of income inequality, better schools, lower rates of violent crime, and a larger share of two-parent households.”
The study, called “The Impacts of Neighborhood son Intergenerational Mobility,” can be found at www.equality-of-opportunity.org.