(AP Photo/Hector Mata)

A University of Michigan study found that growing up in a bad neighborhood has a detrimental impact on children the longer they live there, and especially those who are minorities.

“Compared to growing up in affluent neighborhoods, growing up in neighborhoods with high levels of poverty and unemployment reduces the chances of high school graduation from 96 percent to 76 percent for black children,” said researcher Geoffrey Wodtke.   “The impact on white children is also harmful, but not as large, reducing their chances of graduating from 95 percent to 87 percent.”

The study analyzed data which recorded the lives of 2,093 children beginning at age one up until they turned 17, and assessed which neighborhoods they lived in each year. “Bad” neighborhoods were defined as being characterized by “high poverty, unemployment and welfare receipt, many female-headed households, and few well-educated adults.”

The researchers discovered a racial divide in terms of residence in bad neighborhoods.

“We found that black and white children had starkly different patterns of exposure to bad neighborhoods over the long term,” said Wodtke.  “Black children were about seven times more likely than white children to experience long-term residence in the most disadvantaged 20 percent of neighborhoods.”

The results of the study, said the researchers, indicated that long-term inhabitance in bad neighborhoods is even worse on children than what was previously thought.

“The current findings demonstrate the importance of neighborhoods throughout childhood, and resonate with evidence from several other studies suggesting that residence in disadvantaged neighborhoods may have a negative effect on  the cognitive development of children many years or even generations later,” said researcher David Harding.“And while our study does not speak to the efficacy of specific policy interventions needed to improve communities that have suffered decades of structural neglect, it seems likely that a lasting commitment to neighborhood improvement and income desegregation would be necessary to resolve the problems identified in our study.”

Source: University of Michigan

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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