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Neighborhood and Life Chances

How Place Matters in Modern America

Edited by Harriet B. Newburger, Eugenie L. Birch, and Susan M. Wachter

Publication Year: 2011

Does the place where you lived as a child affect your health as an adult? To what degree does your neighbor's success influence your own potential? The importance of place is increasingly recognized in urban research as an important variable in understanding individual and household outcomes. Place matters in education, physical health, crime, violence, housing, family income, mental health, and discrimination—issues that determine the quality of life, especially among low-income residents of urban areas.

Neighborhood and Life Chances: How Place Matters in Modern America brings together researchers from a range of disciplines to present the findings of studies in the fields of education, health, and housing. The results are intriguing and surprising, particularly the debate over Moving to Opportunity, an experiment conducted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, designed to test directly the effects of relocating individuals away from areas of concentrated poverty. Its results, while strong in some respects, showed very different outcomes for boys and girls, with girls more likely than boys to experience positive outcomes. Reviews of the literature in education and health, supplemented by new research, demonstrate that the problems associated with residing in a negative environment are indisputable, but also suggest the directions in which solutions may lie.

The essays collected in this volume give readers a clear sense of the magnitude of contemporary challenges in metropolitan America and of the role that place plays in reinforcing them. Although the contributors suggest many practical immediate interventions, they also recognize the vital importance of continued long-term efforts to rectify place-based limitations on lifetime opportunities.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: The City in the Twenty-First Century

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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List of Abbreviations

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xv

Place matters. Embedded in this apparently simple statement are a host of complex questions about how and why place matters. Does one’s childhood address determine one’s health as an adult? Does the place a student goes home to after school matter as much as the school she actually attends? To what degree is the success of my neighbor implicated in the...

Part I. People and Places: Heath, Education, and Safety

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Chapter 1. Health and Residential Location

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pp. 3-17

Residents of poor neighborhoods are in worse health, on average, than residents of richer neighborhoods. In order to know whether improving the physical environment in a neighborhood will make people better off, it is first necessary to know whether the relationship between place and outcomes is causal. Residents of poor neighborhoods have many...

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Chapter 2. The Place of Race in Health Disparities: How Family Background and Neighborhood Conditions in Childhood Impact Later-Life Health

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pp. 18-36

Health is distributed unevenly, following a gradient that is a function of socioeconomic advantage and mirrors the pattern of neighborhood disadvantage. Among the steepest of such gradients is that of the United States, where there are large differences across people on measures of neighborhood environments, early childhood experiences, education,...

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Chapter 3. Educational Interventions: Their Effects on the Achievement of Poor Children

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pp. 37-49

Low-income children in the United States face an elevated risk for a variety of adverse educational outcomes. According to the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only 16 percent of fourth-grade students eligible for free lunch score at proficient levels in reading compared with 44 percent of fourth graders whose family incomes are...

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Chapter 4. Before or After the Bell? School Context and Neighborhood Effects on Student Achievement

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pp. 50-72

Most of the debates over education reform focus, as they should, on direct inputs into the educational process, such as the quality of teachers, the financial resources available to schools, and the support students receive from their families. Nevertheless, the achievement of elementary school students may also be affected by the school environment, which...

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Chapter 5. Neighborhoods, Social Interactions, and Crime: What Does the Evidence Show?

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pp. 73-88

Although national crime rates have fallen over the past several years from highs in the late 1980s, the impact of crime on society remains quite strong. By one estimate, the combination of direct monetary losses and costs of pain and suffering among crime victims in the United States is approximately 0.5–0.7 percent of GDP (Freeman 1996). However,...

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Chapter 6. Daily Activities and Violence in Community Landscapes

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pp. 89-99

The social and physical attributes of communities have profound implications for health (Wilson and Kelling 1989; Cohen et al. 2000; Sampson 2003). Violence is one of the primary threats to health in urban communities, and within the urban landscape there are places where violence occurs with disproportionate frequency. This chapter describes two Phil-...

Part II. Geographies of Opportunity

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Chapter 7. Exploring Changes in Low-Income Neighborhoods in the 1990s

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pp. 103-121

While there has been much talk of the resurgence of lower-income urban neighborhoods in the United States over the past ten to fifteen years, there has been surprisingly little empirical examination of the extent and nature of the phenomenon.

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Chapter 8. Reinventing Older Communities Through Mixed-Income Development: What Are We Learning from Chicago’s Public Housing Transformation?

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pp. 122-139

A prevailing challenge for those working to revitalize older U.S. cities in the twenty-first century is the enduring inequity of social and economic opportunity that is starkly defined by place. Without addressing the uneven geographies of opportunity that exist throughout metropolitan areas, the United States will continue to subject significant portions of...

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Chapter 9. Reinventing Older Communities: Does Place Matter?

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pp. 140-159

Most discussions of place-based policy or ‘‘reinventing older communities’’ are concerned with discrete metropolitan areas, cities, neighborhoods, or occasionally larger regions, such as Appalachia or the Rust Belt.¹ In this chapter I take a broader approach to place-based policies by looking at the larger picture, that is, the major changes that have...

Part III. Moving People Out of Poverty

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Chapter 10: An Overview of Moving to Opportunity: A Random Assignment Housing Mobility Study in Five U.S. Cities

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pp. 163-178

Moving to Opportunity (MTO) experiment provides a unique opportunity to answer the question of whether moving from a high-poverty neighborhood to a lower-poverty community improves the social and economic prospects of low-income families. Authorized by the U.S. Congress in 1992, MTO made use of rental assistance vouchers, in combina-...

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Chapter 11. How Does Leaving High-Poverty Neighborhoods Affect the Employment Prospects of Low-Income Mothers and Youth? Evidence from the Moving to Opportunity Experiment

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pp. 179-203

Consider two very different cases of the role of relocation in the economic lives of low-income black women. Anique and her daughter Clara (all names used are pseudonyms) left public housing in a high-poverty, high-crime neighborhood of South Los Angeles seven years ago. Since...

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Chapter 12. Teens, Mental Health, and Moving to Opportunity

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pp. 204-220

Place matters. It affects job opportunities, public school quality, social networks, and housing value. Researchers have explored the relationship between residence and these outcomes while conducting community studies and while calculating the consequences of racial residential segregation in the United States. Placing individuals in their spatial...

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Chapter 13. Changing the Geography of Opportunity by Helping Poor Households MoveOut of Concentrated Poverty: Neighborhood Effects and Policy Design

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pp. 221-234

Since the term ‘‘geography of opportunity’’ was introduced (Galster and Killen 1995) and amplified (Briggs 2005), there has been a grounds well of policy-oriented research related to the many facets of this issue. From the particular perspective of policies that help disadvantaged families move out of concentrated poverty neighborhoods, we must apply this...

Part IV. Segregation: The Power of Place

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Chapter 14. Are Mixed Neighborhoods Always Unstable? Two-Sided and One-Sided Tipping

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pp. 237-256

Racial segregation is a defining feature of urban neighborhoods in the United States. A large body of social science research has established that black children raised in more segregated areas have worse out-comes, including lower levels of completed education, lower test scores, lower marriage rates, lower employment and earnings, and higher crime...

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Chapter 15. Preferences for Hispanic Neighborhoods

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pp. 257-270

Hispanics officially became the largest minority group in the United States in 2005 according to the Census Bureau. Nurtured by immigration and natural population growth, the expansion of this segment of the population is becoming a very salient feature of the American demographic landscape. As with the African American migration to urban...

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Chapter 16. Increasing Diversity and the Future of U.S. Housing Segregation

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pp. 271-287

Racial and ethnic diversity has increased markedly in the United States during the past two decades, mainly as a result of Hispanic and Asian immigration. Between 1990 and 2000, for example, the Hispanic and Asian populations in metropolitan areas grew 5 percent per year and 4.5 percent per year, respectively. Non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, and...

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Chapter 17. Understanding Racial Segregation: What Is Known About the Effect of Housing Discrimination?

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pp. 288-301

My research experience in the area of housing discrimination began as a graduate student working on data from the 1989 Housing Discrimination Study (HDS 1989) and expanded dramatically when I had the opportunity to work as the lead researcher on the team that conducted the 2000 Housing Discrimination Study (HDS 2000) (Turner et al. 2002 ...


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pp. 303-315


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pp. 317-349

List of Contributors

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pp. 351-356


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pp. 357-368

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pp. 369

Neighborhood and Life Chances: How Place Matters in Modern America is the ninth volume in the University of Pennsylvania Press’s The City in the Twenty-First Century book series, organized through the Penn Institute for Urban Research (Penn IUR). Many of the ideas here were first aired at the symposium on the economic challenges facing older communities...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812200089
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812242584

Page Count: 392
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: The City in the Twenty-First Century