Recent research shows that young people born into low-income families, especially African Americans, will have difficulty entering the middle class, in part because of the disadvantages they experience living in more dangerous neighborhoods, going to inferior public schools, and persistent racial inequality. But despite overwhelming odds, some disadvantaged urban youth do achieve upward mobility.
Children of parents who grew up in public housing are much more likely to complete high school and enroll in college if they are subsequently raised in more affluent communities. Yet for other young people, factors such as neighborhood violence and family trauma put them on expedited paths to adulthood, forcing them to shorten or end their schooling and find jobs much earlier than their middle-class counterparts. Escaping poverty can often depend on sustaining an “identity project”—a strong passion such as music, art, or a dream job—to finish school and build a career.
Drawing from her fieldwork in Baltimore with parents and children who have resided in public housing, Stefanie A. Deluca, James Coleman Professor of Sociology and Social Policy, Johns Hopkins University, will discuss the resiliency of low-income young adults, challenge myths about inner-city youth, and demonstrate that through public policy intervention, the process of “social reproduction”—where children end up stuck in the same place as their parents—is far from inevitable.
This event is co-sponsored by the Penn School of Arts and Sciences.