Social Determinism Study Explains South Louisiana Children's Future Income

My Hometown is Not the Best Place to Grow up for Upward Mobility

A map depicting nine parishes that surround Orleans Parish in Southeastern Louisiana
St. Tammany Parish borders Lake
 Pontchartrain north of New Orleans
Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren are interested in whether or not where you grow up determines how much money you will make as an adult. According to their data, released by the Equality of Opportunity Project, Saint Tammany Parish, Louisiana (where I spent at least ten years of my childhood) is one of the worst counties* in the U.S. in helping poor children rise up the income ladder.

I found this out after reading an article the New York Times published: The Best and Worst Places To Grow Up: How Your Area Compares.

The Best and Worst Places to Live for Income Mobility in the New Orleans Area

The Times crunched the numbers and compared every county in the United States. It turns out, Saint Tammany Parish ranks "425th out of 2,478 counties, better than only about 17 percent of counties. It is relatively worse for poor boys than it is for poor girls."

Saint Tammany Parish is very bad for children in average-income families. It is better than only about 8 percent of counties."

And for the top one percent living in Saint Tammany? Saint Tammany Parish is also "very bad for children in families in the top 1%. It is better than only about 7 percent of counties. It is better for rich kids to live in Saint James or Assumption Parish."

Assumptions Squashed: Where You Really Should grow up in South Louisiana

I found these findings to be surprising given the number of people who have left New Orleans and Jefferson Parish to move to more suburban parishes like Saint Tammany.

According to data gleaned from the study, "If you’re poor and live in the New Orleans area, it’s better to be in Plaquemines Parish than in Jefferson Parish or Orleans Parish. Not only that, the younger you are when you move to Plaquemines, the better you will do on average. Children who move at earlier ages are less likely to become single parents, more likely to go to college and more likely to earn more."

According to the data analyzed by the Times: "Every year a poor child spends in Plaquemines Parish adds about $60 to his or her annual household income at age 26, compared with a childhood spent in the average American county. Over the course of a full childhood, which is up to age 20 for the purposes of this analysis, the difference adds up to about $1,300, or 5 percent, more in average income as a young adult."

So in Sum:

  • Poor families should move to Plaquemines Parish
  • Average income earners should move to La Salle Parish.
  • And children of the one percent should move to Catahoula Parish. 
Or, pack your bags (whether you're poor or average), Louisiana, and move to Mississippi.
*In Louisiana, counties are referred as parishes.

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