“Friendly Bias” – The New York Times

In recent years, sociologists have made understanding upward mobility a priority. They used tax returns and other data to study factors that increase the chances that children who grow up in poverty will be able to escape poverty as adults.

The study shows that education, from prep to college, seems to play a big role. Money itself is also important: longer and deeper bouts of poverty can affect children for decades. Other factors, such as avoiding eviction, access to good health care, and being raised in a two-parent family, can also increase the likelihood of career advancement.

Now there is another intriguing factor to add to the list, thanks to study published this morning in the academic journal Nature: Friendship with non-poor people.

“Growing up in a class-to-class community improves children’s outcomes and gives them a better chance of lifting themselves out of poverty,” Raj Chetty, a Harvard economist and one of the study’s four main authors, told The Times.

The study attempts to quantify the effect in several ways. One of the most poignant, I think, compares two otherwise similar children from lower income households – one who grows up in a community where social contacts mostly come from the bottom half of the socioeconomic distribution, and another who grows up in a community. where social relationship contacts mostly come from the upper half.

The authors report that the average difference between them in terms of expected outcomes in adulthood is significant. This is the same as the gap between a child who grows up in a family that makes $27,000 a year and a child who grows up in a family that makes $47,000.

The study is based on a dizzying amount of data, including the friendships of 72 million people on Facebook. (You can explore the results through these charts and maps from The Upshot.)

Robert Putnam is a political scientist who has long studied social interactions, including his book “Bowling Alone” — said the study was important in part because it hinted at ways to increase upward mobility. “It provides a number of avenues or clues whereby we could begin to move this country in a better direction,” he said.

In recent decades, the US has moved in the opposite direction. Rising economic inequality and a shortage of new housing in many communities have contributed to increasing economic segregation. Even within communities, interclass social interactions seem to have diminished.

This chart shows the extent to which Americans divide themselves into classes:

There appear to be three main mechanisms by which interclass friendship can increase a person’s chances of escaping poverty, Chetty told me.

First, it’s over-ambitious: social awareness can give people a clearer idea of ​​what’s possible. Second, basic information, such as how to apply to college and get financial aid. Thirdly, networking, for example, getting a recommendation for an internship.

My colleague Claire Cain Miller, after talking to the authors of the study in recent weeks, decided to find some real examples of its results. Claire focused on Angelo Rodriguez High School in Fairfield, California, a mid-sized city between Sacramento and Oakland. The school has an unusually large amount of interclass interactions. One of the people Claire interviewed was Marie Bowie, a 24-year-old who grew up in a lower-middle-class family, survived divorces, layoffs, and lost homes, and made friends with wealthier girls in high school.

“My mom really instilled in us hard work — knowing our family history, you have to be better, you have to do better,” Bowie said. “But I didn’t know anything about the SAT, and my friends’ parents signed up for the course, so I thought I should do it. My friends’ parents reviewed my personal testimony.”

Today, Bowie works as a criminal defense lawyer. She found her job through a friend of one of her high school friends.

Angelo Rodriguez High School is a prime example as it is more economically and racially diverse than most schools. This diversity is necessary for a high level of socio-economic integration. But this is not enough, the authors of the study say. In some diverse communities, low- and high-income Americans lead relatively isolated lives.

In others, interclass interactions are more common. The study does not provide a full explanation of the differences. But Claire discovered that the high school had taken deliberate steps to tie people together.

The school did not recruit students from just one community. Instead, it had an unusually shaped neighborhood, including both poorer and more affluent neighborhoods, while also accepting some students from outside the area. The open architecture of the school also contributes to pleasant communication. “Random, unstructured interactions between students were very important,” said John Diffenderfer, one of the school’s architects.

What can increase interaction between classes elsewhere?

Among the promising possibilities, the researchers note: more housing, including subsidized housing, in prosperous areas; more diverse K-12 schools and colleges; and specific efforts—such as community parks that attract a wide variety of families—to encourage interaction between wealthier and poorer people.

Churches and other religious organizations can teach some lessons to other sectors of society. While many churches are socioeconomically homogeneous, churches with some diversity tend to encourage more interclass interaction than most other social activities. Churches have lower levels of what researchers call the socioeconomic “friendship bias.”

Youth sports, by contrast, became more segregated as wealthy families flocked to so-called tourist groups.

Successful efforts to expand interactions are also likely to take into account the special roles of race. The study found that places with more racial diversity tend to have fewer inter-class friendships.

“Our society is designed to discourage this kind of cross-class friendship, and many parents, often white, make choices about where to live and what extracurricular activities to send their children to to make these connections less likely. This was stated by Jessica Calarco, a sociologist at Indiana University. Claire’s story talks more about the role of race.

The stagnation of the standard of living for the working class and poor Americans such a huge problem that no change will solve it. But the explosion of academic research into upward mobility, including this new study, has at least provided a clearer picture of what can help. Social integration seems to play a decisive role.

There are many ways to deal with grief: finding time to grieve, exercising, spending time with friends, just to name a few. But some people find solace in something else: real estate investment.

Jennifer Miller writes in The Times: “Many women seeking independence, especially after a breakup or divorce, have discovered emotional opportunities for themselves: “And they have found a unique support system in which getting rid of the ghosts of relationships is as important as the ability to negotiate about interest rates.

Thank you for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. – David

PS Is it worth dropping off your bag at the airport? Is renting a car worth the money? How about insurance? This summer of suffering, Times experts will answer your questions. Send them here.