If you want to give your child a leg up in life, especially if you're of modest means, consider living in the country. A study by Stanford University economist Raj Chetty says that children who grow up in most rural areas succeed more as adults. "Children growing up in poor families in three out of four rural counties have higher incomes than the national average at age 26 simply as a result of spending time in these communities," Bill Bishop reports for The Daily Yonder. Wealthy children benefit from the rural effect too, but to a lesser extent than children growing up poor. Teasing out the data even further shows that the upward mobility effect is greater for boys than girls, and less overall for children who are black or Native American.
"This increased income is the result of 'neighborhood effects' that can either help or hinder children who grow up in every community. . . Rural places more often have the combination of factors that help poor children succeed in the labor market," Bishop reports. Such positive factors include less segregated communities, good schools, low crime rates, less wage disparities (so communities are not starkly separated into haves and have-nots), and strong civic connection. Based on those yardsticks, neighborhood effects in urban centers are largely bad for children in poor families, Chetty found. A county-by-county map shows that the very best place for children to grow up is in the rural expanses of the Great Plains states. The catch? In order to earn those higher incomes as adults, rural residents may have to move away to more populated areas where the jobs are available.