Neighborhoods matter when raising children

Where you live makes all the difference. This is especially true when it comes to children. In a recent article examining the results of new census information, the National Low Income Housing Coalition revealed an alarming increase in the number of children living in high poverty, low opportunity areas. The findings were highlighted in the Annie B. Casey Foundation’s 2012 Kids Count Data Snapshot, which relied on census data from the 2006-2010 American Community Survey.

The new data revealed a steady uphill trend where children are increasingly likely to live in high-poverty areas. In 2000, approximately 9% of children lived in high poverty areas. Between 2006 and 2010, that percentage rose to 11% – an increase of about 1.6 million children. This is after a steady decline of children living in high poverty areas between 1990 and 2000.

Not all children were affected equally. For example, children living in the South and Southwest regions of the US were more likely to be living in high poverty areas than children in other regions. Across all regions, the percentage of children living in high poverty communities in both rural and urban environments was significantly greater than in the suburbs. The study also revealed African American children were even more severely impacted; approximately 23% of African American children lived in high poverty areas between 2006 and 2010.

These findings are very significant. Living in a high poverty area translates into more than immediate disadvantages for families and children. Areas with high concentrations of poverty lack the resources and opportunities of wealthier communities. As such, the infrastructure for opportunity – the schools, libraries, after school programs, and other educational opportunities such as organized sports, are generally inferior to those in neighborhoods with a more substantial tax base. Since where you live determines not only where you can go to school, but also those other educational opportunities you can have access too, it is far too easy for children living in high poverty neighborhoods to become trapped in an unending cycle of poverty.

As an increasing number of people living in high poverty areas are families struggling to raise children, it is more important than ever to ensure housing equality in all areas. Even if some groups, like African Americans, are more vulnerable to the risk of raising families in high poverty areas, where you live affects children of all backgrounds. Under current law, housing discrimination is forbidden on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability. In order to promote economic equality, we need to expand anti-housing discrimination law to forbid discrimination based on source of income as well. Thousands of families who are able to afford housing in high opportunity neighborhoods are barred from doing so because their primary source of income is from a source like social security or a pension.

All American children deserve the opportunity to live the American dream. Housing equality is a fundamental first step to insure that all students have the same opportunity to have a great education, a great job, and to succeed.

This is a guest post by Amy Weiss. Amy is originally from Richmond, Virginia and is a third year law student at the University of Richmond. She graduated from the College of William and Mary in 2007 where she studied history and anthropology.

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One thought on “Neighborhoods matter when raising children

  1. Having safe and dignified housing is a fundamental human right. If a home is a safe place for a child, then he will be better equipped to change the world around him for the better, and much less likely to become “just another statistic.”

    I believe a major threat to rectify this issue is the ignorant belief that things such as housing discrimination no longer exist in 2012. We need to continue to provide educational resources to counter this baseless and dangerous belief, and make a much stronger effort to provide for and protect our future generation.

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