Most of the huge decisions that parents are forced to make, and there are a lot — TV vs. no TV, breastmilk vs. formula, and so on, forever — don’t affect kids’ success in the long run. But one does, and it matters more than every other child-rearing decision put together. It’s all about where children grow up.
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a data scientist and author, crunched the numbers for millions of children over multiple generations and found that the places where families settle have a huge influence on their children’s futures. Here’s how Stephens-Davidowitz put in the Atlantic:
“The results showed that some large metropolitan areas give kids an edge. They get a better education. They earn more money: The best cities can increase a child’s future income by about 12 percent. They found that the five best metropolitan areas are: Seattle; Minneapolis; Salt Lake City; Reading, Pennsylvania; and Madison, Wisconsin.”
Of course, most parents, now matter how dedicated they are, aren’t going to move to Seattle or Salt Lake City just because it’ll give their kids a leg up. But they don’t necessarily have to. The researchers who compiled that data on how location affects children’s achievement created a database called the Opportunity Atlas. It allows anyone to see how any given neighborhood expands or limits the futures of children, even drilling down to how that area will affect kids of different income levels, ethnicities, and genders. Often it’s just a matter of choosing one neighborhood over another, rather than another state or city.
Many things influence where people choose to live. But most people, or most parents at least, would agree that nothing matters more than their children’s lives. And it turns out that nothing matters more to those lives than where they start out.
Read more at the Atlantic: The One Parenting Decision That Really Matters