Report

Children in Cities: Uncertain Futures

Laura Chadwick and Isabel V. Sawhill

Abstract

Do children growing up in cities face more challenges than suburban children? Have at-risk children concentrated in cities over time? The evidence presented in this paper suggests that a growing number of children are at risk of becoming another generation of poor adults and that a disproportionate number of them live in the nation’s central cities. This survey uses Current Population Survey data to determine the location of children at high risk of poor adult outcomes like poverty, teenage and unwed childbearing and low education levels.

Key Findings

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A study of children’s life prospects in 1976 and 1996 reveals that:

  • The proportion of children in the U.S. with good life prospects and the proportion with poor life prospects both increased between 1976 and 1996, at the expense of those with average prospects; this foreshadows an increasingly unequal and divided society in the future.
  • Children who live in central cities are twice as likely to be at high risk of bad adult out-comes (such as poverty and unemployment) as suburban children, and half as likely to be at low-risk as their suburban counterparts.
  • Central cities are now home to a higher proportion of high-risk kids. In 1996, almost 1 urban child in 5 was “at-risk” of poor adult outcomes, a 50 percent increase since 1976.

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