Residential mobility and long-term exposure to neighborhood poverty among children born in poor families: A U.S. longitudinal cohort study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


One in four Americans lives in a poor neighborhood – defined by a poverty rate of 20% or higher. The effects of neighborhood poverty on children's health and development depend on the timing and duration of the exposure. Focusing on children born in poor families, we examined the timing and persistence of their exposure to neighborhood poverty from birth to age 17. We also examined family characteristics associated with exposure to neighborhood poverty. Study data are from a national cohort of 634 children born in poor families in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Neighborhood poverty was defined by census tract using residential addresses reported in annual/biennial interviews. Approximately half of the children lived in a poor neighborhood at any age. More than a third lived in a poor neighborhood both at birth and in their last follow-up in adolescence, spending most of their childhood and adolescence in such neighborhoods. Many family demographic and socioeconomic characteristics were significantly associated with entering and exiting poor neighborhoods, but only non-white head of household, being born in a poor neighborhood, and parents' tenure in poor neighborhoods before the child's birth were significantly positively associated with cumulative exposure to poor neighborhoods (in years). Among children born in poor families, exposure to neighborhood poverty is persistent throughout childhood and adolescence. Children from non-white families and families with a history living in poor neighborhoods are disproportionately exposed to poor neighborhoods. Policies are needed to address structural conditions such as neighborhood racial and income segregation to reduce prolonged exposure to neighborhood poverty among children born into poverty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-76
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019



  • Child development
  • Family characteristics
  • Family poverty
  • Longitudinal study
  • Neighborhood poverty
  • Residential mobility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

Cite this