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Kholood Eid for NPR Block by block, the place you were born and raised, can determine how far you get ahead in life. A new online tool shows that geography plays an outsized role in a child's destiny. It's a map that uses tax and U.
Census data to track people's incomes from one generation to the next. In this low-income neighborhood, the map starkly shows the divide between areas where kids did better than their parents and those who didn't. Nearly 40 percent of Brownsville lives below the poverty rate. The unemployment rate is 16 percent.
So the key question is: What happened on the other side of Dumont Avenue? This map, a screenshot from The Opportunity Atlasshows household income in for African-Americans born between and to low-income parents. New York City had weathered a devastating financial crisis, and was grappling with the AIDS and crack cocaine epidemics. The city sold over 16 square blocks of Brownsville to East Brooklyn Congregations, for just one dollar. The government also agreed to pay for infrastructure in the area and to offer cash subsidies for over 1, affordable homes.
That's how the Palacio family ended up living here. Enlarge this image Audra Palacio was born in the Linden Houses, a public housing structure that houses thousands of families close to Brownsville.
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When people find out where she's from, they often react in disbelief. Peter Palacio, a sweet, gentle man in his 70s chuckles at the recollection that none of his factory co-workers used to dare come near Brownsville, for fear of its reputation as a rough spot. His wife, Ruth, is kind, but firm and proud. She says she's grateful for the help and community that public housing provided; she just never saw it as a permanent solution.
An economic crisis practically left the city bankrupt.
Ruth Palacio says when she started having children, she began to worry about the crowding. Because it was a lot of people Internet earnings HYIPs in the housing projects," she says. The Rev. David K.
Brawley, one of the leaders of East Brooklyn Congregations, says the situation was dire. He recalls that some elected officials referred to Brownsville and the surrounding neighborhoods as "the beginning of the end of civilization: Burnt-out homes, empty lots, people were leaving the city in droves.
Brawley is one of the leaders of East Brooklyn Congregations, which put together the Nehemiah housing plan. They continue to build houses today.
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Church leaders identified a part of town that had been particularly abandoned: across from Dumont and Livonia avenues. About 40 percent of the first Nehemiah homeowners migrated from government housing. The Palacios made the move inwhen Audra was 6. We were so excited. We had rooms. We had space.
We had a backyard! On the Opportunity Atlas, Livonia Avenue in Brownsville is one of the borders between children who grew up to do better than their parents, and those who experienced blockcan how to make money on it little progress. They shifted their future, like a ship changing course. A lot of factors determine a child's success: having blockcan how to make money on it mom like Ruth Palacio, tough but loving, is definitely one of them. But can moving from one block to another truly determine a child's future?
Ruth Palacio, a bilingual school psychologist, has spent time working with children who live in government housing. She knows that kids there often live in cramped conditions, doing homework in stairways.
It can be noisy and stressful. When she moved her family to the Nehemiah houses, they didn't just get a beautiful backyard and spacious living room. They got a place to play safely with their friends; a quiet area to do their homework; a good night's sleep. Ruth Palacio right63, and daughter Shantel Palacio, 33, at home in Brownsville. Both women pursued careers in education: Ruth is a bilingual child psychologist. Shantel is pursuing a Ph. Location matters, and the Opportunity Atlas spells it out starkly: A lot of kids who moved here from public housing did a lot better than those they left behind.
Brawley beams when he hears that Audra Palacio and her sister, Shantel, are working on their masters and Ph.
And that's just what the Palacios did — they passed their Nehemiah home on to their daughter, Shantel. The Palacios passed their Nehemiah home on to Shantel. She has a master's in public policy and administration, and is pursuing a doctorate in education policy. When she sees the Opportunity Atlas map, she gets goosebumps.
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She's deeply proud of her neighborhood, and even has a blog dedicated to telling Brownsville's storiesthrough which she wants to advocate for the community. As she walks through the neighborhood, Shantel reminisces fondly about block parties, dance groups, bakery runs and playing house. She says that every day, she gets a letter in the mail, a phone call or a visit, from a speculator offering to buy the house. Some neighbors speak of prospective buyers showing up with bags filled with cash.
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For all its progress, this is a low-income neighborhood, and Shantel wonders about the people in her community who will take that money and go away.
A few minutes' walk way is Livonia Avenue — another street that marks a strong division between children who progressed and those who didn't, according to the Opportunity Atlas.
Enlarge this image Audra Palacio walks with her father Peter Palacio back to their house. The house is part of an affordable housing plan called Nehemiah.
The Palacios moved here inwhen Audra was six years old. Kholood Eid for NPR What about all the kids, born about 30 years ago, on that side of the neighborhood? Her district includes 29 public housing developments. She herself grew up in one. She's a bubbly, jovial woman who jokes with her staff as she heads into her office. But when she sees the Opportunity Atlas, a sadness washes over her face.
Much of the area she presides over shows little progress between generations. The Nehemiah homes, she says, which are still being built in New York, have helped the community so much. But they didn't do much for her family.