Study after study has proven that when children are sequestered in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, their educational and economic opportunities are stunted, creating enduring cycles of poverty.
But a new paper, written by a team of researchers led by the Stanford economist Raj Chetty, indicates that these findings have yet another critical element: Concentrated poverty can be significantly more detrimental to young boys than to young girls.
In America it’s generally been true that men are more likely to be employed than women. According to the most current data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, even as women have entered the workforce in greater numbers, men’s labor-force participation rate is around 69 percent, while women’s is around 57 percent. This division in the labor force holds among middle- and upper-income families, but Chetty and his fellow researchers find that when poor kids become adults, a reverse gender-employment gap appears, with poor boys more likely than poor girls to become unemployed adults.
For Poor Families, the Gender-Employment Gap Reverses
Chetty has led a lot of recent research into the role that neighborhoods play in children’s lifelong economic fortunes. To investigate the impact of parental income and neighborhood choice on children, Chetty and his fellow researchers looked at data from the IRS from 1996 to 2012 to determine a sample of Americans’ household incomes and locations. After tracking the eventual wages, college-attendance rates, and employment of these parent’s children, Chetty and his colleagues found that by and large, poor children become poor adults, and rich children become rich adults. Also, kids from middle-and upper income families were more likely than kids from poor families to be employed as adults.
But the outcomes are significantly worse for poor black boys. Girls from poor families are more likely to find work and to get further in school than boys who grew up in similar circumstances. The researchers detected a similar gender gap among poor children who grew up in single-parent households, but of all the variables tested, growing up in concentrated poverty and growing up in an area that was predominately black were the strongest predictors of adult male unemployment.