The Legacy of Multigenerational Disadvantage

Patrick Sharkey, Felix Elwert

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The theory underlying a multigenerational perspective argues that there are numerous possible pathways, observed and unobserved, by which the neighborhood environment in one generation may be linked with a child's cognitive ability in the next generation. A family's exposure to neighborhood poverty over two consecutive generations is found to reduce the average child's cognitive ability by more than half a standard deviation. If childhood neighborhoods affect any dimension of adult social or economic status, health, or family life, then disadvantages experienced during childhood in one generation may linger and affect cognitive ability in the next. The chapter considers the experimental and quasi-experimental evidence available from residential mobility programs, including the Gautreaux program in Chicago, the Moving to Opportunity experiment, and other similar programs. It also considers the extensive literature on neighborhood effects based on observational data. A common claim made in reviews of these studies is that the family environment is more important for child development than the neighborhood environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInequality in the 21st Century
Subtitle of host publicationA Reader
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9780429968372
ISBN (Print)9780429499821
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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