indexThree weeks ago, DBF covered health research that moving to pricey neighborhoods with highly-educated populations apparently makes you live longer.

About the same time, Ann Owens, a sociologist at the University of Southern California, reported that moving to pricey neighborhoods with good school districts may be the best real estate decision you can make if you have school-age children, since it betters your child’s chances in life.

It has also increased income segregation in America since the 1990’s. Rich and non-rich citizens are less likely to share the same neighborhood, but Owen’s research, published in the American Sociological Review, finds this has more to do with children than with other factors. She concluded that “Results indicate that children face greater and increasing stratification in neighborhood contexts than do all residents, and this has implications for growing inequalities in their future outcomes.”

Owens studied income segregation patterns across the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. from 1990 to 2010 and found that income was more disproportionate among families with children. Neighborhoods with wealthy families with children showed about 20% increase in income than neighborhoods with poorer families who had children. Families who had children younger than 18 living with them registered double as much income segregation as those whose children were older or who were childless.

Owens concluded that it was the choice of schooling that impelled families to move to certain districts, but the reality may be more complex. Education may be one, or none, of reasons that caused families to move. Other possibilities include wanting to shelter children, or to live among certain amenities, or to educate children in a certain belief system rather than for educational reasons.

Owen’s research may lead you to conclude that you need school integration for neighborhood parity. Integrate schools, so the argument goes, and you end diversity. But few voters will accept your ideas. Typically, the two topics that most enrage voters are threats to property values and to their children’s schools. This is particularly so to those who have both the desirable address and the best classroom in town. Parents from Winnetka, Illinois, for instance, may feel deeply disturbed that children of Austin, Chicago, will share classroom space with their toddler in the Harkness House of Children. Especially since Austin is one of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods. Most such parents prefer income segregation.