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Mean Streets: Kids' verbal skills drop in bad neighborhoods

You can take a child out of a severely disadvantaged neighborhood and move to a nicer part of town, but you can't always take a bad neighborhood's harmful effects on verbal development out of the child.

That's the implication of a new, long-term study of children from various Chicago neighborhoods. Kids living in the most disadvantaged communities displayed marked declines in age-appropriate verbal ability over a 7-year span, even after moving to better areas, reports a team led by Harvard University sociologist Robert J. Sampson.

On average, children who at some point lived in neighborhoods characterized by "concentrated disadvantage" exhibited decreases of 4 IQ points on later standardized tests of vocabulary and reading skills. Comparable verbal losses occur when a child misses 1 year of school.

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