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Want to boost your child’s future earnings? Move to right county

Ability to advance tied to county, study finds

For Massachusetts children, the opportunities to advance financially may be tied to the county in which they grow up, a new study by Harvard economists found.

The study found a link between children’s environs and their potential earnings. Some counties contribute to income mobility, the researchers found, while others hinder it, particularly for children from impoverished families.

Poor children who grew up in seven of Massachusetts’ 13 studied counties — Nantucket data were not available — saw higher incomes than children from poor families nationwide, while those from six counties made less, according to The New York Times’ The Upshot analysis of the study.


Of young children growing up in poverty in Greater Boston, for example, those living in Norfolk County are far more likely to experience income mobility than those living in Suffolk or Essex counties, The Upshot found.

Poor children growing up in Norfolk County are more likely to go to college, less likely to become a single parent, and more likely to earn more, according to The Upshot’s analysis. They saw added income of more than $2,820 annually compared to the national salary of those from poor families, while individuals from low-income households living in Suffolk County earned $840 below it.

That’s a pay disparity of $3,660.

So what distinguishes these two neighboring counties when it comes to upward mobility opportunities? Generally, the Harvard researchers found that counties that offered better chances for mobility had less segregation by income and race, lower levels of income inequality, better schools, less violent crime, and more two-parent homes.

The place where they grow up affects boys more than girls, and poorer children more than richer ones, the study found.

How location affects future earnings for Mass. children in poverty
Change in income compared to national earnings for poor children by county
County All kids Boys Girls
Norfolk +$2,820 +$3,050 +$2,450
Middlesex +$1,700 +$1,870 +$1,440
Hampshire +$1,120 +$970 +$1,270
Franklin +$1,100 +$1,630 +$400
Worcester +$710 +$290 +$1,220
Plymouth +$540 +$280 +$840
Barnstable +$400 +$440 +$340
Dukes -$380 -$1,220 +$680
Essex -$380 -$540 -$170
Berkshire -$470 -$230 -$760
Hampden -$830 -$680 -$990
Suffolk -$840 +$1,070 -$3,190
Bristol -$1,340 -$1,480 -$1,120
SOURCE: The Upshot
Globe Staff

Catherine Cloutier can be reached at catherine.cloutier@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @cmcloutier.