What is it about?

Where you grow up has a huge impact on the opportunities you get in life, starting with education. That observation is proven by many social research studies. Usually, following the American example, the focus is on poorer neighbourhoods. But in countries like the Netherlands there is no extreme spatially concentrated deprivation. In our paper we wanted to take a look at how growing up in a rich neighbourhood influences young people's educational level, and how that compares to growing up in poor neighbourhoods. We used detailed data from Statistics Netherlands and followed one cohort, children born in 1995, as they grew up through the neighbourhoods where they lived to predict their education level at the age of 23. Based on geocoded grid data, we calculated what percentage of two hundred households nearest to the individuals we studied could be described as affluent or poor. According to our models, growing up in a rich neighbourhood has more influence on education level than growing up in a poor neighbourhood. That is likely because of the resources affluent households use to increase the quality of extracurricular activities and facilities in their neighbourhood, as well as their cultural attitudes that prioritise education and information about the educational system shared among neighbours.

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Why is it important?

The study shows social segregation works in Dutch cities. The findings can inspire policies targeting spatially concentrated wealth rather than, as usually, trying to restructure poorer neighbourhoods by causing some of their inhabitants to move away.


Writing this article was a great opportunity to use quantitative research methods to highlight the need for more studies on the effects of rich neighbourhoods, rather than only the poor ones. I also enjoyed combining sociological theories with a more traditional social geographic approach popular in the neighbourhood effects field.

Agata Troost
Technische Universiteit Delft

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Neighbourhood effects on educational attainment. What matters more: Exposure to poverty or exposure to affluence?, PLoS ONE, March 2023, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0281928.
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