How Can Young Adults Transition out of Poverty?


When young adults move out of the family home, they often find themselves in neighborhoods that differ considerably from where they grew up. And that transition provides a unique opportunity to address wealth inequality in America, according to a new paper released by the UC Davis Center for Poverty & Inequality Research.

“The transition to adulthood is a period of residential change that can loosen the chains linking disadvantage from adolescence to later in life,” said Noli Brazil, an assistant human ecology professor at UC Davis and co-author of the paper. “Policies guiding adolescents and young adults facing important life decisions during this transition play a critical role in helping people leave the impoverished conditions in which they were raised.”

Noli Brazil
Noli Brazil

Brazil and his colleague, Professor William Clark from UCLA, used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health to examine movement in and out of disadvantaged and advantaged neighborhoods as young people experience significant life events like going to college, choosing a partner and getting a job. The poverty gap among children in the least and most disadvantaged neighborhoods decreased more than 18 percent as they grew into adults and moved out on their own.

“That’s because there was a lot of movement up from the most disadvantaged neighborhoods and down from the most advantaged neighborhoods,” Brazil explained.

The team found that 58.8 percent of adolescents left the least advantaged neighborhoods by the time they reached adulthood. Meanwhile, nearly 70 percent of young people who grew up in the most advantaged neighborhoods lived in less advantaged neighborhoods when they first left home.

The decrease in the poverty gap may only be temporary as young people continue to work, have families and move to new neighborhoods. But the findings could help guide policymakers as they design poverty-intervention strategies.

“Life events during the transition to adulthood are critical to residential mobility, so it’s especially important to promote positive experiences during that time, such as completing high school, going to college and finding gainful employment,” Brazil said.

            You can find more details on the study at the UC Davis Center for Poverty & Inequality Research website.