Against All Odds: Measuring The Success Of Inner City Kids

January 10, 1997

A study aimed at measuring the life success of Inner City children born between 1960 and 1965 has found that in this, the fourth decade of their lives, most have done well, and generally better than their parents in terms of educational attainment, lifestyle, health and financial independence. The study, conducted by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and published in the January 15 issue of Pediatrics, was designed to identify and evaluate characteristics from early childhood -- for blacks and whites, males and females -- that might predict success or failure in the lives of over 2,500 children whose mothers, living in low-income neighbohoods in East Baltimore, attended a Johns Hopkins pre-natal clinic between 1960 and 1965.

Some of the predictors of successful adult lives were not surprising. "Living with both parents and continuing freedom from poverty predicted good outcomes," said Barbara Starfield, MD, professor, Health Policy and Management. "Behavior -- in and out of school -- was an accurate predictor as well."

Kids on the honor roll, who participated in extra-curricular activities at school, had summer jobs, did not smoke regularly before age 18, stayed within the family through age 16, stayed away from drugs and alcohol and did not get into difficulty with the law in their teens, had the most success in all four categories. Almost 80% graduated from high school or had GEDs. More than 75% were financially independent, meaning they were not on any form of government assistance. Sixty percent were judged to be in good physical and mental health and 70% were living "a healthy life style."

A less rosy side of the picture emerged as well. Reading and language achievement levels among the study group were well below national norms when they were seven to eight years old. Now into their thirties, females generally had higher educational attainment and fewer behavioral problems than males, but were less likely to be healthy or financially independent. Only 55% of the males had attained a "healthy lifestyle" by not engaging in "self-destructive" or "anti-social activities."

Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

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