Escambia County is bad for poor children

Chig Findley delivers food to students for the weekend with the First Baptist Church Backpack Buddies program at Weis Elementary School in Pensacola, Fl. Friday, April 24, 2015. (Michael Spooneybarger/ Pensacola Today)

It matters where you grow up.

Escambia County is among the worst places in the U.S. for poor children to grow up in and climb the economic ladder, so says a new study by two Harvard researchers.

Out of 2,478 counties, Escambia County ranks 47th, better than only about 2 percent of counties nationwide, according to researchers Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren.

The two researchers go beyond merely talking about which counties correlate with income mobility; they suggest places like Escambia County actually cause it, according to The New York Times article, “The Best and Worst Places to Grow Up: How Your Area Compares”.

If you’re poor and live in the Pensacola area, it’s far better to be in Okaloosa County than in Walton County or Escambia County.

The sooner you leave and move to neighboring Okaloosa County, the better you will do on average, the research says.

Escambia map NYTIMES

“Every year a poor child spends in Okaloosa County adds about $30 to his or her annual household income at age 26, compared with a childhood spent in the average American county,” according to the article. “Over the course of a full childhood, which is up to age 20 for the purposes of this analysis, the difference adds up to about $500, or 2 percent, more in average income as a young adult.”

The study shows that children who move at earlier ages are less likely to become single parents, more likely to attend college and to earn higher wages.

Escambia County is worse to grow up in for poor boys than it is for poor girls. While it is overall bad for poor children, it is somewhat better for children from high-income families.

If a child in a poor family were to grow up in Escambia County, instead of an average place, he or she would make $3,870, or 15 percent, less at age 26, the study shows.

A poor child’s chance of success changes dramatically with a slight shift east or west in location.

To the west of Escambia County in Baldwin County, Ala., the poor child would make $900, or 3 percent less.

To the east in Santa Rosa County, a poor child would make $400 or 2 percent, less.

The numbers, based on the new research, show that location clearly matters, and growing up in a given county affects a child’s annual income even after they reach adulthood.