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The Impacts of Neighborhoods on Intergenerational Mobility I: Childhood Exposure Effects

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  • Raj Chetty
  • Nathaniel Hendren

Abstract

We show that the neighborhoods in which children grow up shape their earnings, college attendance rates, and fertility and marriage patterns by studying more than seven million families who move across commuting zones and counties in the U.S. Exploiting variation in the age of children when families move, we find that neighborhoods have significant childhood exposure effects: the outcomes of children whose families move to a better neighborhood – as measured by the outcomes of children already living there – improve linearly in proportion to the amount of time they spend growing up in that area, at a rate of approximately 4% per year of exposure. We distinguish the causal effects of neighborhoods from confounding factors by comparing the outcomes of siblings within families, studying moves triggered by displacement shocks, and exploiting sharp variation in predicted place effects across birth cohorts, genders, and quantiles to implement overidentification tests. The findings show that neighborhoods affect intergenerational mobility primarily through childhood exposure, helping reconcile conflicting results in the prior literature.

Suggested Citation

  • Raj Chetty & Nathaniel Hendren, 2016. "The Impacts of Neighborhoods on Intergenerational Mobility I: Childhood Exposure Effects," NBER Working Papers 23001, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Fredrik Andersson & John C. Haltiwanger & Mark J. Kutzbach & Giordano Palloni & Henry O. Pollakowski & Daniel H. Weinberg, 2013. "Childhood Housing and Adult Earnings: A Between-Siblings Analysis of Housing Vouchers and Public Housing," Working Papers 13-48rr, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    2. Jens Ludwig & Greg J. Duncan & Lisa A. Gennetian & Lawrence F. Katz & Ronald C. Kessler & Jeffrey R. Kling & Lisa Sanbonmatsu, 2013. "Long-Term Neighborhood Effects on Low-Income Families: Evidence from Moving to Opportunity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 226-231, May.
    3. Daniel Aaronson, 1998. "Using Sibling Data to Estimate the Impact of Neighborhoods on Children's Educational Outcomes," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(4), pages 915-946.
    4. Katz, Lawrence & Duncan, Greg J. & Kling, Jeffrey R. & Kessler, Ronald C. & Ludwig, Jens & Sanbonmatsu, Lisa & Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2008. "What Can We Learn about Neighborhood Effects from the Moving to Opportunity Experiment?," Scholarly Articles 2766959, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    5. Tolbert, Charles M. & Sizer, Molly, 1996. "U.S. Commuting Zones and Labor Market Areas: A 1990 Update," Staff Reports 278812, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    6. Jeffrey R Kling & Jeffrey B Liebman & Lawrence F Katz, 2007. "Experimental Analysis of Neighborhood Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(1), pages 83-119, January.
    7. Fredrik Andersson & John C. Haltiwanger & Mark J. Kutzbach & Giordano Palloni & Henry O. Pollakowski & Daniel H. Weinberg, 2013. "Childhood Housing and Adult Earnings: A Between-Siblings Analysis of Housing Vouchers and Public Housing," Working Papers 13-48, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    8. Steven Haider & Gary Solon, 2006. "Life-Cycle Variation in the Association between Current and Lifetime Earnings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1308-1320, September.
    9. Raj Chetty & Nathaniel Hendren & Patrick Kline & Emmanuel Saez, 2014. "Where is the land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 129(4), pages 1553-1623.
    10. Raj Chetty & Nathaniel Hendren & Frina Lin & Jeremy Majerovitz & Benjamin Scuderi, 2016. "Childhood Environment and Gender Gaps in Adulthood," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(5), pages 282-288, May.
    11. R. D. Plotnick & S. D. Hoffman, "undated". "The Effect of Neighborhood Characteristics on Young Adult Outcomes: Alternative Estimates," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1106-96, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    12. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Jonah E. Rockoff, 2014. "Measuring the Impacts of Teachers II: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(9), pages 2633-2679, September.
    13. Geoffrey Wodtke, 2013. "Duration and Timing of Exposure to Neighborhood Poverty and the Risk of Adolescent Parenthood," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(5), pages 1765-1788, October.
    14. Philip Oreopoulos, 2003. "The Long-Run Consequences of Living in a Poor Neighborhood," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 118(4), pages 1533-1575.
    15. Raj Chetty & Nathaniel Hendren, 2018. "The Impacts of Neighborhoods on Intergenerational Mobility II: County-Level Estimates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 133(3), pages 1163-1228.
    16. Gerard J. Berg & Petter Lundborg & Paul Nystedt & Dan-Olof Rooth, 2014. "Critical Periods During Childhood And Adolescence," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 12(6), pages 1521-1557, December.
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    JEL classification:

    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General
    • R0 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General

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