Wealthy families are most responsible for American wealth segregation

Inequality in Children’s Contexts, USC Sociologist Ann Owens's paper in American Sociological Review (Scihub mirror), investigates the factors that contribute most to the unequal lives of wealthy and poor American children, and concludes that the single most significant factor is the neighborhood that the children's parents live in.



This is an intuitive finding and goes a long way to explaining why property speculation is so lucrative; buying up property near "good" schools drives up the price of living near them, further excluding low-income people and their children from access to an increasingly unequal educational system.

But Owens's findings go beyond the obvious. For example, she shows that America's increasingly rigid neighborhood-based income segregation is driven almost entirely by families with children; wealthy childless couples are much less likely to segregate themselves from their poorer neighborhoods -- it's easy to see how this would be a natural corollary of neighborhood-by-neighborhood, wealth-correlated public education quality.


Children aren't evenly distributed across communities. You're more likely to find them in, say, the suburbs of Fairfax County than in Chinatown in the District. So the environments they and their families occupy don't necessarily reflect the experience of the typical American household. Along a number of divides, whether by race or poverty levels, children tend to live with more segregation than the population at large.

In her study, Owens looked at income segregation patterns across neighborhoods in the 100 largest metros in the United States. From 1990 to 2010, income segregation among families with children rose by about 20 percent. By 2010, income segregation was twice as high among families with children younger than 18 living at home as among households without them. That means that a typical childless household lives among more diverse neighbors from across the economic spectrum than does the typical family with children.

Inequality in Children’s Contexts: Income Segregation of Households with and without Children [Ann Owens/American Sociological Review]

Scihub mirror


The one thing rich parents do for their kids that makes all the difference
[Emily Badget/Wonkblog]

(via Naked Capitalism)