Siblings, fake siblings and neighbourhood effects?

Recently completed work by Prof David Manley and colleagues at TU Delft and Uppsala University has been published in PLOS ONE and Annals of the Association of American Geographers. The work used the Swedish Population Register data, held at the University of Uppsala to explore the intergenerational transmission of neighbourhood characteristics on later neighbourhoods career and their later life income trajectories.

Understanding how inequalities are transmitted through generations and restrict upward spatial mobility is increasing receiving attention in the literature and the idea that the neighbourhood in which someone grows up is highly predictive of the type of neighbourhood he or she will live in as an independent adult has gained traction. Drawing on the tradition of sibling studies we created to sets of siblings – one set of real siblings who shared both geography and household and a set of ‘contextual siblings’ or people who grew up in the same place – that is they share geography – but not the same household. Using these two groups what we set out to find out in these two papers was firstly, what is the relative contribution of geography compared to the contribution of the family context in forming these individual life outcomes. When then secondly used the sibling design to explore if we could disentangle family and neighbourhood effects on income. Ultimately, what the sibling design helps us to do is separate the effects of childhood family and neighbourhood context from adult neighbourhood experiences

The papers identify that siblings live more similar lives in terms of neighbourhood experiences during their independent residential careers than contextual sibling pairs but that this difference decreases over time. The results show the importance of geography, revealing long-lasting stickiness of spatial–temporal contexts of childhood. In terms of the effects these places then have we can see that the neighbourhood effect on income from both childhood and adult neighbourhood experiences, is biased upwards by the influence of the childhood family context. Ultimately, we conclude that there is a neighbourhood effect on income from adult neighbourhood experiences, but that the childhood neighbourhood effect is actually a childhood family context effect.

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