Can School Choice Make People Healthier?

Have you ever considered your neighborhood might have an effect on your health? Most people suffering from the leading causes of death in America (heart disease or stroke) first suffer from high blood pressure. But did you know there’s something significantly lowering blood pressure other than diet and exercise? Neighborhoods.

The National Institute of Health recently reported that living in racially integrated communities can have a significant impact on lowering high blood pressure, especially for African-Americans, who suffer from the highest blood pressure rates of any group in the nation. Residential segregation is a little-appreciated contributor to the drastic differences in health stats between groups. But research now shows that moving from a highly segregated area to a less segregated one could save lives.

In a time where obesity has shaved a year off the life expectancy of Americans, David Goff, director of the Cardiovascular Diseases division at NHLBI, described this study as critical to shining light on the root causes of chronic diseases. “Only by understanding these root causes can we effectively promote health and health equity at the societal level,” he stated.

So, if residential segregation keeps people from thriving, how do we keep communities from segregating?

It’s true; racism is a part of the cultural fabric of American history, and there are certainly people who move away from those who are different than them. But some people also move for “great” schools or “great” neighborhoods. Robin Hughes, an associate professor at Indiana, put it well when she stated:

“...folks tend to move to spaces where one might find great schools, great teachers, great neighborhoods and more without ever thinking about what “great” might mean.”

According to census data, people “spatially sort” when their children reach school age. Those who can afford to move away from schools without resources do so. Regardless of motive, spatial sorting generally results in the residential segregation that has such a negative impact on our health.

But what if we chose to incentivize families with school-age children to stay in poorer neighborhoods? What if the answer to stratified communities was offering all families better educational options? Those are questions we can answer! Poor neighborhoods would desegregate, and health outcomes would improve. Find out more by reading about CPR Scholarships.

In honor of National School Choice Week, check out some of our favorite resources:

  • The one that is a video summary
  • The one that is an interesting podcast
  • The one about a charter school that changed a community
  • The one about school choice impacting home values
Image via Jasleen Kaur