Much neighborhood research has focused on contemporary and segregated cities in the United States, but less on small and more homogenous cities. Additionally, neighborhood conditions are often estimated using administrative borders, which bias results. We adopt a long-term perspective on the importance of childhood neighbors, using more realistic methods of neighborhood conditions. We estimate individual neighborhoods at the address level, using geocoded longitudinal microdata (1939 to 2015) for a medium-sized Swedish town. We show that even when growing up in an economically relatively equal population, when higher education expanded greatly, the social class of the nearest childhood neighbors was important for educational achievements, regardless of social class and schools. Associations are strongest for boys, but with similar patterns across genders.Abstract
We study the association between sociospatial neighborhood conditions throughout childhood and educational attainment in adulthood. Using unique longitudinal microdata for a medium-sized Swedish town, we geocode its population at the address level, 1939 to 1967, and link individuals to national registers, 1968 to 2015. Thus, we adopt a long-term perspective on the importance of nearby neighbors during a period when higher education expanded. Applying a method for estimating individual neighborhoods at the address level, we analyze the association between the geographically weighted social class of the nearest 6 to 100 childhood neighbors (ages 2 to 17), and the likelihood of obtaining a university degree by age 40, controlling for both family social class and school districts. We show that even when growing up in a town with relatively low economic inequality, the social class of the nearest same-age neighbors in childhood was associated with educational attainment, and that the associations were similar regardless of class origin. Growing up in low-class neighborhoods lowered educational attainment; growing up in high-class neighborhoods increased attainment. Social class and neighborhoods reinforced each other, implying that high-class children clustered with each other had much higher odds of obtaining a university degree than low-class children from low-class neighborhoods. Thus, even if all groups benefited from the great expansion of free higher education in Sweden (1960s to 1970s), the large inequalities between the classes and neighborhoods remained unchanged throughout the period. These findings show the importance of an advantageous background, both regarding the immediate family and the networks of nearby people of the same age.