paycheck By Elizabeth Zach, staff writer         

Children growing up in most rural American communities, and especially those from poor families, often succeed well in the labor market, according to a Stanford University study.

Economist Raj Chetty at Stanford conducted a massive national survey earlier this year and found that children growing up in poor families in three out of four rural counties earn better than the national average by age 26. Chetty points to “neighborhood effects,” such as narrower income disparities, good schools and a strong civic life. He and his colleagues also spotlight racial segregation, noting it is less prevalent in rural counties.

“We conclude that one-fifth of the black-white income gap is explained solely by the differences in the counties in which these children grow up,” the researchers write. “That is, if black families were to live in the same counties as white families, the black-white income gap would fall by 20%. Residential segregation by race thus amplifies racial inequality across generations.”

Diversity matters, too, they found, whereby rich and poor, black and white, coexist. These places, they say, should have a strong community identity, low crime and good schools. Nearly eight out of 10 rural counties have enough of these qualities to help poor children earn higher incomes.

To read more and see a map illustrating the study’s findings, go here: