SS sign.png

What's the most important factor when it comes to predicting a child's future success? Certainly race, access to education, and economic factors play a role. Sadly for my kids, so does parenting (my 8 year old says he has outgrown me and he might be right). 

But a recent study says another key element -- perhaps the key element -- is WHERE you grow up. Not only does it make a big difference in what city, town, or even neighborhood you live but your life chances can be dramatically different depending on which block you grow up on according to a recent New York Times article: Detailed New National Maps Show How Neighborhoods Shape Children for Life

What recent research is finding is that a hyper-local setting (the environment within about half a mile of a child's home) has an enormous impact on a child’s future success and earning potential.

I don’t think any modern educator doubts the impact that a neighborhood plays on a child’s potential success. What is new in this study is the ability to predict future income based on a micro-setting. Even given the same zip code, family demographics, and school boundaries, they are able to tightly target, study, and predict future income based on a very small locational map. 

The metrics are as specific as they are mysterious. Researchers still don’t fully understand exactly why children from some neighborhoods are more successful while one street away a child may experience a very different life, but they believe it is based on the block or street lived on. 

It’s not the neighborhood but the people IN the neighborhood. So perhaps Bob and his furry friends from Sesame Street were on to something when they sang, 
“Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhood, in your neeeeiiiigghhhbbboorrrhooodd!” 

(Now you have that earworm to deal with.)

As music educators we are well aware that little things can make a big difference, and just because two children have similar homes, demographics, and attend the same school does not mean that they have the same educational experience. We also know that part of what makes music kids so successful is that we place them in a "community" of high quality, like minded kids and caring adults. This is one of the MANY reasons why all children should be exposed to music as a part of their educational process.

Music classes are more than a creative and emotional outlet, they transcends color, gender, and social and economic influences to help create and produce a community of better young people.

But just for giggles, what if we went even more micro than just music? What if we studied:

  • Which programs (b/c/o) had what impact later in life?

  • If children who were a part of more than one music program experienced more success?

  • If children who are a part of more than one ensemble make more money in life?

  • If any specific instruments showed a greater or lesser impact in future successes?

  • If music students were more successful in any specific professions?

To my way of thinking, this micro-study of student/child success doesn’t go nearly micro enough. This could get really interesting.

So maybe Bob and our Sesame Street muppet friends were on to something... Who are the people in your neighborhood? In the study they define your neighbors as people you see and interact with each and every day. People who care for you and about you. 

To my way of thinking, your neighborhood isn't defined by a street address or GPS location, but by a level of caring and concern by a group of like minded people that keeps you safe and on the right path.

Yes, it takes a village to raise a child. And the study shows that a good street will improve your life. But, when you really look at your neighborhood, you realize that it might be music that will change thee trajectory of your life.

Have a great week!

p.s. As much fun as we all make of drummers, in my (not so scientific) experience, I have found that percussionists tend to be successful music teachers at a higher rate than other instruments. Just wondering what it is about their neighborhood that makes them more successful?