Escaping The Ghetto

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Two recent books examine how neighborhoods affect poverty over the long term:

The first, published in February by the University of Chicago Press, is Sampson's Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect. Among his many findings, Sampson shows that exposure to severely disadvantaged areas hampers children's verbal skills, an effect that persists even if they move to better-off places. That handicap is "roughly equivalent to missing a year of schooling," according to research he conducted with Stephen Raudenbush and Patrick Sharkey.

The second book, Sharkey's Stuck in Place: Urban Neighborhoods and the End of Progress Toward Racial Equality, forthcoming in January from Chicago, explores how neighborhood inequality spans generations. Sharkey, an associate professor of sociology at New York University, writes that "over 70 percent of African-Americans who live in today's poorest, most racially segregated neighborhoods are from the same families that lived in the ghettos of the 1970s." In other words, "the American ghetto appears to be inherited"—a finding with implications for policy.

(Image from the series "Flying Houses" by Laurent Chehere, courtesy of the artist and the Paris-Beijing Gallery)