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Want Your Kids to Prosper As Adults? Better Leave NYC

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New York City is billed as a place of opportunity, but apparently that opportunity mostly extends to people who move into its boundaries after they've become fully-formed adults. A new study by Harvard economists Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren that's explored by the New York Times finds that children born in the five boroughs are pretty restricted from climbing up the income ladder, despite the wealth percentile of the family they come from. What's going on here? Chetty and Hendren's findings, based on more than five million children who moved between areas when they were growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, deduces that the counties a child (20 years or younger) grows up in directly causes their income mobility and New York City—like LA—is not all about that.

Let's take a look at Brooklyn: according to the study, Kings County is "among the worst counties in the U.S. in helping poor children up the income ladder." It ranks 418th out of 2,478 counties, and is better than only 17 percent of counties in income mobility. Esteemed New York County (Manhattan) is just as bad. It ranks 175th, better than only about 7 percent of counties, and is relatively bad at stimulating income mobility amongst boys and girls who grow up wealthy—the Times published a lengthy explainer on this blasphemous fact. Bronx County ranks 120th and is only better than 5 percent of counties at stimulating mobility—which, it goes without saying, is not a whole lot—and Richmond County (Staten Island), where it's really hard for poor boys to get ahead, ranks 207th. Queens County, on the other hand, ranks 679th, and is 27 percent better than most places at promoting income mobility.

It's not just the county where a kid grows up that determines these numbers. Other factors are at play, too, like being subject to areas that are less segregated by income and race with lower levels of income inequality, better schools, not a whole lot of violent crime, and more married couples.

If the stats sound fishy, it's important to keep in mind that the data Chetty and Hendren used is based on figures from 1980s and 1990s New York, which the Times points out "wasn't the same place" as the New York City of today. But if you're not willing to sit around and find out whether the stats will dramatically skew in the coming decades—your toddler could be in their mid-30s by the time that data is processed—then sayonara; it's Putnam County for you.
· The Best and Worst Places to Grow Up: How Your Area Compares [NYT]
· Is Manhattan Bad For Affluent Children? [NYT]
· Study: Los Angeles Keeps Poor Kids Poor Their Whole Lives [Curbed LA]