Skip to content
CityLab
Economy

Are Poor Neighborhoods Worse for Boys Than Girls?

A new analysis of social mobility by economist Raj Chetty reveals how childhood environment impacts adult gender gaps.
relates to Are Poor Neighborhoods Worse for Boys Than Girls?
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

How adults in the U.S. fare economically depends, to a large extent, on the quality of the neighborhoods they grew up in. But boys and girls who live right down the street from each other don’t always end up, economically speaking, in the same place. And that’s most likely because their childhood environments affect them differently, a new working paper by economist Raj Chetty and his colleagues finds, with boys having an especially tough time.

The researchers analyzed tax records of 10,000 U.S. citizens born between 1980 and 1982 once they turned 30, as well as economic and social data on their parents while they were growing up. Their findings “demonstrate that gender gaps in adulthood have roots in childhood, perhaps because childhood disadvantage is especially harmful for boys.” The findings are significant not just in understanding how place matters for social mobility of men and women, but for explaining trends about the U.S. labor force as a whole.