When starting a family, one of the first questions asked is “Where will we live?” Ultimately, whether out of choice or necessity, families must choose between staying in the area they’ve been living in, or to move elsewhere. Instinct often nudges some to stick to their roots, to not venture out into unknown territory, even if it were to be to a better neighborhood; there are those who feel a type of sentimental pride in their neighborhoods.
But is this really the right way to go – especially when it comes to your children’s success? Research that has been conducted over the past few years showed evidence that moving to a better neighborhood is beneficial not only for the children in the household, but for other members as well. According to Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren’s study, there are a few necessary key components that can help determine if a neighborhood will lead to higher success for a family.
“Within a given commuting zone, we find that counties that have higher rates of upward mobility tend to have five characteristics: they have less segregation by income and race, lower levels of income inequality, better schools, lower rates of violent crime, and a larger share of two-parent households.”
Equality of opportunity- Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren
The benefits of moving include a higher college attendance rate and a relative decrease in the poverty rate. However, the benefits are dependent on time and age, according to the New York Times. In the article, the study said, “In the mid-to-late 1990s, 4,600 families living in public housing entered a lottery in which the winners were offered a voucher that enabled them to move to better neighborhoods.” There were those who were given the opportunity to move, but were still unable to reap the benefits of moving to a better neighborhood. This seemed to be the case when children were above a certain age during the move, making mobility less plausible to a parent.
That being said, what’s to stop anyone from any neighborhood from achieving the “American Dream”? And what of those who cannot achieve their dreams due to their economic situation or any other hindrance that life is known to give? It seems that whether given the opportunity or not, there’s always the option for “failure” in the sense that a person/student fails to increase their current amount of wealth and/or succumbs to financial instability. It does not, however, account for the general happiness of the person, who may be earning less money doing something they truly love.
“Given how American society has evolved, the idea is… to achieve a balancing act which rewards merit and hard work and provides a floor or safety net for low-performing, slow running and weaker individuals. But despite this ideal standard for society, we are confronted with the harsh truth that this nation remains much more stratified than what its principles suggest… We would like to believe that through merit and hard work anyone can achieve the American dream”
Allan Ornstein, Wealth vs. Work: How 1% Victimize 99%
But it seems that simply ‘going to school and graduating college’ does not always make the cut for immediate success. There are those who grow up considered ‘doomed to fail’ due to their neighborhood or finances. Shouldn’t they still be provided with an opportunity to live a comfortable life? There is so much talk of how much education or a good neighborhood will lead to success – that having a passion for your job and financial stability will naturally go hand-in-hand if you do things the good ol’ fashioned “American” way.
But what do you do when neither of those options are viable or plausible?