(TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains ideas that may cause butthurt feelings in some people.)
The New York Times discovers that where you grow up really matters:
In the wake of the Los Angeles riots more than 20 years ago, Congress created an anti-poverty experiment called Moving to Opportunity. It gave vouchers to help poor families move to better neighborhoods and awarded them on a random basis, so researchers could study the effects.
The results were deeply disappointing. Parents who received the vouchers did not seem to earn more in later years than otherwise similar adults, and children did not seem to do better in school. The program’s apparent failure has haunted social scientists and policy makers, making poverty seem all the more intractable.
Now, however, a large new study is about to overturn the findings of Moving to Opportunity. Based on the earnings records of millions of families that moved with children, it finds that poor children who grow up in some cities and towns have sharply better odds of escaping poverty than similar poor children elsewhere.
Beyond Baltimore, economists say the study offers perhaps the most detailed portrait yet of upward mobility — and the lack of it. The findings suggest that geography does not merely separate rich from poor but also plays a large role in determining which poor children achieve the so-called American dream.
How neighborhoods affect children “has been a quandary with which social science has been grappling for decades,” said David B. Grusky, director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Stanford University, who was not involved in the research. “This delivers the most compelling evidence yet that neighborhoods matter in a really big way.”
Many of these places have large African-American populations, and the findings suggest that race plays an enormous but complex role in upward mobility. The nation’s legacy of racial inequality appears to affect all low-income children who live in heavily black areas: Both black and white children seem to have longer odds of reaching the middle class, and both seem to benefit from moving to better neighborhoods.
The places most conducive to upward mobility include large cities — San Francisco, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Providence, R.I. — and major suburban counties, such as Fairfax, Va.; Bergen, N.J.; Bucks, Pa.; Macomb, Mich.; Worcester, Mass.; and Contra Costa, Calif.
These places tend to share several traits, Mr. Hendren said. They have elementary schools with higher test scores, a higher share of two-parent families, greater levels of involvement in civic and religious groups and more residential integration of affluent, middle-class and poor families.
Sometimes the obvious is right in front of your nose.
There is a strong correlation between poverty and crime. Where you find one you also find the other. Liberals look at that correlation and conclude that poverty causes crime. A whole lot of domestic policy over the past 50 years is based on that conclusion.
But you could just as easily conclude that crime causes poverty.
Or maybe both conclusions are wrong. Correlation is not causation. Maybe the things that tend to cause poverty also cause crime. Perhaps crime, poverty, illiteracy, drug use and other social ills are all symptoms of the same disease – a sick sub-culture.
Yesterday I talked about how criminals have different values than the rest of us. So do poor people.
Take education for example. There aren’t a lot of college graduates in prison. We’ve had mandatory education laws in this country for a century, and free public schools. Kids spend thousands of hours attending K-12 classes, not counting homework.
So how do some of these kids fail to obtain basic literacy? It doesn’t happen by accident. All you have to do is show up and pay attention in class, and you’ll learn how to read, write and do arithmetic.
But what if you don’t show up and when you do show up you don’t pay attention?
I grew up in a family and neighborhood where adults worked and paid bills, and didn’t go to prison. Lots of criminals and poor people grow up in families and neighborhoods where adults don’t work or pay bills and occasionally they go to prison. Living in that world kinda warps your expectations and values.
How do you get out of poverty? You work hard, get an education, delay gratification, stay off drugs and don’t commit crimes. If you do those things you are also providing a positive role model for your kids.
The “Moving to Opportunity” program failed because it didn’t change the people, it only changed their addresses. On the other hand, people who work their way out of poverty don’t need to change.
I’m gonna stop here because I need to get this post up and running.