The communities we grow up can play a large role in shaping our trajectories in life, leading to geographically distinct pathways for upward mobility that can lead to further inequities and segregation.
Children who grow up in segregated neighborhoods, in terms of both income and race or ethnicity, do not consistently experience high degrees of upward mobility. Why might this be? To some researchers, deep pockets of concentrated poverty are often broken out along racial or ethnic lines - leading to a fragmentation of communities that erodes the chances one can expect to lead towards upward mobility.
The neighborhoods we grow up in have a huge impact on our trajectories in life, from earnings potential to the likelihood of incarceration. Opportunity Insights has found that moving within the same region from a lower-opportunity area to a higher opportunity area can boost earnings by as much as $200,000 over one's lifetime.
Not all neighborhoods are equal. Neighborhoods that have better access to jobs, more affordable or accessible housing, and a greater mix of incomes provide greater chances for upward mobility than neighborhoods without those conditions. These neighborhoods are also more likely to have strong education systems that also help increase the odds for upward mobility for children in those areas.
Neighborhood segregation is a major barrier to upward mobility. The lasting effects of racist policies such as redlining have contributed to long-term disinvestment and decline in communities of color. Neighborhoods that were segregated by race/ethnicity in the past are still some of the most segregated neighborhoods today.
“Growing up in neighborhoods with concentrated violence, incarceration, and lead exposure predicts lower intergenerational income mobility and higher [levels of] adult incarceration of poor black males.” (Manduca and Sampson 2019) These impacts are particularly skewed when considering race and ethnicity: communities of color are more likely to be exposed to these types of environments, and therefore more likely to experience the negative effects.