New interactive map highlights unequal distribution of opportunities in the Netherlands

Do children from different neighbourhoods in the Netherlands all have the same prospects when it comes to ‘getting ahead’ in our society? After studying the issue, researchers from Erasmus School of Economics concluded that income levels in later life have a strong correlation with the neighbourhood you grew up in as a child. They have literally mapped out the differences between neighbourhoods on a new interactive website: KansenKaart.

The recently launched interactive website KansenKaart.nl provides insight into the extent to which Dutch citizens enjoy the same opportunities for social advancement. This reveals a considerable ‘opportunity gap’ between different Dutch regions, and even between adjacent neighbourhoods. Comparing 30-somethings who grew up in families in the same income group but in different areas, there even turns out to be a clear correlation between their current income and the neighbourhood they spent their childhood in.

Differences between neighbourhoods

The interactive website presents information about citizens in the 30-40 age group for each neighbourhood and each municipality in the Netherlands, broken down according to sex and their parents’ income. Research leader Bastian Ravesteijn: “We wanted to establish to which degree your chances to secure a comfortable income later in life depend on your family circumstances and the neighbourhood you grew up in. Once we had mapped this out, it yielded so many new insights and questions that we wanted to share our findings in a clear format with the entire Dutch population. Which is why we built the Kansenkaart (‘Opportunities Map’) website, which people can use to compare their neighbourhood with other neighbourhoods.” Over the next few months, the reserachers will be publishing a whole range of other results in the field of education and health on KansenKaart.nl.

Zuid-Limburg op kansenkaart.nl

Big deviations in the north, Limburg and the major cities

The KansenKaart shows a number of striking deviations from the average. In a nationwide overview, there are a relatively large number of red areas in the northern Netherlands and parts of Limburg and Twente. This means that as adults, 30-somethings who grew up in parts of these regions have a lower income than peers who spent their childhood in other parts of the country.

“When we compare people who were raised in equally ‘poor’ families, it turns out that people who grew up in parts of Brabant and the Randstad city cluster, for example, have an average income of around €32 thousand – approximately 50% higher than children who grew up in the three northern-most provinces and the former mining region in southern Limburg, who have an average income of €23 thousand,” says Ravesteijn.

In addition, we can observe major differences between neighbourhoods that lie side by side – particularly in the major cities. For example, children who grew up in a low-income household in Amsterdam Oud-Zuid turn out to earn a substantially higher income – on average €26 thousand – than their peers who were raised by parents with a similar income in Overtoomse Veld (€19 thousand) – even though it only takes 5 minutes to cycle from one neighbourhood to the other. But the same applies to some neighbourhoods within cycling distance of each other in south Limburg and the northern Netherlands: major disparities when it comes to the likelihood of securing a high income later in life – even when you focus on families in the same low income category.

Randstad op kansenkaart.nl

Where do we find the best prospects for a high income?

The researchers have also studied which of seventy characteristics recorded for municipalities correlate with opportunities for children from relatively poor backgrounds to climb the income ladder later on. These turned out to be different for men and women. Men prove to have the best prospects for economic advancement in municipalities where a large share of the population voted for the Christian parties SGP or CDA, and there are a lot of married couples. These municipalities are also home to a relatively large number of children in the secondary school age group, as well as people from an ethnic Dutch background.

Other municipalities, in contrast, show limited upward social mobility for men. These municipalities tend to have a different set of characteristics: a lot of PvdA (Labour) voters, high unemployment levels, people moving house relatively often, economic inequality and a high divorce rate.

The picture is different for women. The opportunities for economic advancement were smallest in municipalities with a relatively large number of members of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and the Dutch Reformed Church and people who vote ChristenUnie and SGP – and, similar to the men, PvdA. Women fared better in municipalities where a lot of people vote VVD, D66 and Partij voor de Dieren, where house prices are high and with a lot of Catholic citizens.

Noord-Nederland op kansenkaart.nl

Methodology

The maps shown here forecast the annual income in 2018 of people born between 1982 and 1987, based on the income group their parents belonged to in the period 2006-2010. Areas with fewer than 25 children in the 15th to 35th income percentiles have not been included in this overview, since distribution there could be based on chance. The KansenKaart website also shows results for people who grew up in middle- to high-income households, as well as everyone living in a specific municipality and neighbourhood – regardless of his or her parents’ income.

American example

In 2018, the US Census Bureau published the Opportunity Atlas, which maps out inequality of opportunity in the US, in partnership with Harvard University and Brown University. ESE researchers Bastian Ravesteijn and Helen Lam have developed a similar interactive map for the Netherlands together with research assistant Matthijs Jansen, based on data about 1 million Dutch children and their parents that has been made available for research purposes by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

At the time, the Census Bureau study sparked a public debate regarding how to best address inequality of opportunity in American neighbourhoods. Bastian Ravesteijn hopes that the research presented by Erasmus School of Economics will inspire a similar discussion in the Netherlands. “Seeing the patterns, you immediately start wondering what causes these strong local disparities between children whose parents fall in the same income group. Everyone is welcome to shed their light on these results.”

In the media (in Dutch)

More information

Meral van Leeuwen, press officer EUR: 06-40264367 or press@eur.nl