Upward mobility best in communities with lots of two-parent homes, even for kids living in single-parent homes

by Ryan Streeter on January 26, 2014. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

We’ve known for awhile that unmarried childbearing is directly related to a host of negative economic and social outcomes among children.

Brad Wilcox does a nice job summarizing a key finding in this regard from the new Harvard income mobility study:

Of all the factors most predictive of economic mobility in America, one factor clearly stands out in their study: family structure…[T]his is the first major study showing that rates of single parenthood at the community level are linked to children’s economic opportunities over the course of their lives. A lot of research—including new research from the Brookings Institution—has shown us that kids are more likely to climb the income ladder when they are raised by two, married parents. But this is the first study to show that lower-income kids from both single- and married-parent families are more likely to succeed if they hail from a community with lots of two-parent families (emphasis added).

As Wilcox points out, the study also finds some additional factors, which I think are related: racial and economic segregation, school quality, and social capital, in that order. These findings essentially confirm the Charles Murray thesis that America is splitting into two societies divided by family formation practices and the economic and social habits and expectations in the community you live in.