Harvard study shows county gives kids a leg up

We knew Snohomish County was a good place to raise kids. Now we have a study by two Harvard economists that confirms it’s also a good place to give kids, particularly those from low-income families, hope for upward mobility.

As reported by the New York Times and National Public Radio this week, the study by Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren and their Equality of Opportunity Project, looked at counties across the U.S. Using earnings records, with names redacted, of millions of families that moved from one area to another, the economists measured the income mobility of children, finding that some counties provided better odds for children to improve their economic outcome as adults.

One of the top counties was Snohomish County, performing better than 88 percent of all counties in the U.S., even better than our neighbor to the south, King County. Of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., it ranked second on the study’s list, behind only Dupage County, Illinois, west of Chicago.

It’s not surprising — and equally sobering when recent events are considered — to note that the city on the bottom of the list of 100 counties, where children actually lose significant ground, is Baltimore, Maryland.

Using future income as its measurement, the study found a child from a lower-income family in Snohomish County can expect to earn $3,740 more each year as a young adult than the national average. Lower-income boys would earn $3,410 more a year; girls would earn $4,050 more. In fact, most kids in Snohomish County can, on average, expect to benefit from living here. Average income kids would earn $2,450 more than the average, better than 79 percent of the rest of the nation. Kids from upper-income families in Snohomish County were at 49 percent of average, showing no real advantage or disadvantage to living here. The study also found that what Chetty and Hendren called the “childhood exposure effect” of living in a better environment also effected outcomes such as college attendance and the incidence of teen pregnancy.

The study credited five factors with influencing income mobility for children: less segregation by income and race among neighborhoods, lower levels of income inequality, good schools, lower rates of violent crime and a larger percentage of two-parent households. Sound like any county you’re familiar with?

The study also noted Snohomish County’s relatively inexpensive housing costs, in contrast to the county at the top, Dupage, Illinois, where housing costs are among the highest in its region.

The authors, Chetty and Hendren, said that among the conclusions of the study is that efforts to improve childhood environments and thus social mobility are best addressed at a local level.

It’s not difficult to find examples of local efforts that fit that profile.

Thirty-eight schools in 12 of the county’s 15 school districts recently were honored in the state Superintendent of Public Instruction’s annual Washington Achievement Awards, based on academic records over the past three years.

Community support of children also must be seen as a factor for success. That the YMCA of Snohomish County raised a record $1.36 million in its recently concluded annual campaign speaks to the community’s support for the organization but also of the good that YMCA does in our county for children, teens and families.

Continued support for the YMCA and similar organizations, for our schools and for state and local policies that promote strong neighborhoods, families, diversity and income equality will help keep Snohomish County a great place to give any child the best shot at a good future.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Sunday, Sept. 24

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Randall Tharp’s month recovery coins after battling a fentanyl addiction.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Editorial: Fentanyl crisis should force rethinking of approach

A continuum of care, that includes treatment in jails, is imperative, says a journalist and author.

FILE - In this Jan. 16, 2015, file photo, pumpjacks are seen operating in Bakersfield, Calif. On Friday, April 23, 2021, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he would halt all new fracking permits in the state by January 2024. He also ordered state regulators to plan for halting all oil extraction in the state by 2045. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
Comment: If ‘peak oil’ is ahead why is oil industry doubling down?

Fossil fuel use could peak by 2030, but Big Oil may be putting profit ahead of prudent transition.

Reports back removal of Snake River dams to save salmon

The recent letter to the editor claiming that removing dams on the… Continue reading

Comment: ‘Legacy forest’ term hides an unproductive intent

Meant to lock up state forest lands, it discourages responsible and valuable timber management.

Comment: Effort to lower drug costs could hurt other patients

Those suffering from rare diseases face a longer wait for medications if research is discouraged.

Forum: Hospital waiting rooms shouldn’t be patient warehouses

Why are hospitals, like Providence, understaffed with nurses, leaving patients to wait for hours for care?

Flowers bloom on the end of a dead tree on Spencer Island on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Editorial: Restore salmon habitat but provide view of its work

Comments are sought on a plan to restore fish habitat to the island east of Everett with popular trails.

FILE - Six-year-old Eric Aviles receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from pharmacist Sylvia Uong at a pediatric vaccine clinic for children ages 5 to 11 set up at Willard Intermediate School in Santa Ana, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. In a statement Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, California's public health officer, Dr. Tomas J. Aragon, said that officials are monitoring the Omicron variant. There are no reports to date of the variant in California, the statement said. Aragon said the state was focusing on ensuring its residents have access to vaccines and booster shots. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
Editorial: A plea for watchful calm this time regarding covid

We don’t need a repeat of uncontrolled infections or of the divisions over vaccines and masks.

Most Read