The Inequality Fight Dividing Hillary Clinton's Hometown

The Inequality Fight Dividing Hillary Clinton's Hometown, Dana Goldstein, Politico, October 16, 2016, available here

This micro-segregation shapes lives. An emerging body of social science suggests that for low-income families, having the freedom to move is much more powerful than previously acknowledged. Last year, Harvard economists Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren and Lawrence Katz reassessed data from Moving to Opportunity, a federal experiment to move poor families into neighborhoods where fewer than 10 percent of residents were from low-income households. It had long been clear that older teenagers struggled when their families moved and left behind established social networks. But the economists decided to isolate those children who were youngest—under the age of 13—when their parents moved. As adults, those children earned 31 percent more than peers who never left low-income, segregated areas.

These findings point toward some of the shortcomings of social policy over the past two decades. Consider education reform: President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, Obama’s push to improve teacher evaluation, and the charter school movement were all built around the idea that racially segregated, high-poverty schools, if held accountable, could achieve the same results as affluent schools, setting poor children on a better life trajectory. But social science shows that schools and teachers have less of an impact on children than do parents, neighborhoods and peers. The future of the fight against intergenerational poverty may have less to do with accountability, the bipartisan catchphrase of the early 21st century, and more to do with integrating poor children of color as both neighbors and classmates, with their middle-class, affluent and white peers. To that end, Obama is ending his second term with efforts to desegregate both housing and schools. But integration forces affluent white people to do something big: accept newcomers into their communities.

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