Moms – and Kids – on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day makes me think of Moms – and of their kids.

An income study conducted by Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren and reported interactively in the New York Times this week demonstrates the economic prospects for poor kids growing up in different counties around the country. County by county, a reader can see how various places stack up in terms of opportunity for our most vulnerable citizens.

I’ve been in San Francisco, California, this week; San Francisco is very slightly – 1% – better than the national average. I grew up in Contra Costa County across the Bay. Turns out that Contra Costa County offers the best opportunity in this region – 12% better than the average U.S. county.

Douglas County, Nebraska, Omaha’s county, is in the middle of the pack – slightly less than a percentage point below the mean, which places it better than only about 36% of counties nationwide.

The counties surrounding Omaha fare significantly better: Pottawattamie County across the river in Iowa is 8% above the national average; Sarpy County to the south is 12% above; and Washington County to the north is 16% above.

And within hailing distance are several counties that beat the national mean by 25-30%: Cuming, Boone, Colfax, Saline, Clay.

The study highlights the “why” of the national variation:

“Across the country, the researchers found five factors associated with strong upward mobility: 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.”

Five factors for strong upward mobility.

The first one: less segregation by income and race.

Also in the New York Times, “How Racism Doomed Baltimore” describes today a

“century-long assault that Baltimore’s blacks have endured at the hands of local, state and federal policy makers, all of whom worked to quarantine black residents in ghettos, making it difficult even for people of means to move into integrated areas that offered better jobs, schools and lives for their children. This happened in cities all over the country, but the segregationist impulse in Maryland generally was particularly virulent…”

Baltimore, according to the Chetty and Hendren study, is 17% below the national county average for a poor child’s economic prospects and “among the worst counties in the U.S.”

Less segregation by income and race could help Baltimore’s children. It could help Omaha’s children. It could help all our children.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Palma Joy Strand


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