Recent Urban Policy and Community Development Research


Race and Income Segregation

Segregation in France vs. the U.S.
In major cities across the world, families tend to live near other families with a similar socioeconomic status. But how do these levels of segregation vary across countries? In Demography, IPR sociologist Lincoln Quillian and Hugues Lagrange of the French National Center for Scientific Research compare metropolitan areas with a population of more than 1 million in France and the United States. They discover that large U.S. metropolitan areas have much higher socioeconomic segregation than in France, and the United States has a strong pattern of low-income neighborhoods in central cities, whose residents experience high unemployment and low levels of education. Those with higher incomes and lower unemployment are far more likely to live in U.S. suburbs. In contrast, the location of low-income neighborhoods varies across metropolitan areas in France. Some are similar to the U.S. pattern, such as Marseille and Lille, while others differ, such as Paris, where the poor neighborhoods are concentrated in the banlieues, or suburbs. The researchers also find that government-assisted housing is disproportionately located in the poorest U.S. neighborhoods, but it is spread across neighborhoods of different income levels in France. Quillian and Lagrange conclude that differences in government provision of housing assistance, and in levels of income inequality, likely contribute to differences in socioeconomic segregation between the two countries.

Lincoln Quillian
At an IPR colloquium on October 17, IPR
sociologist Lincoln Quillian introduces IPR
political scientist Wesley Skogan (right),
who presented on the origins and
consequences of "stop and frisk," which
has become the crime-prevention strategy
of choice in U.S. policing.

Segregation and Contextual Advantage
How does segregation contribute to inequality? Quillian provides a formal demographic model of how segregation affects an individual’s social context—a neighborhood, school, or even social network. Quillian’s model builds on the idea that better contexts provide people with contextual advantage and that poorer social contexts result in contextual disadvantage. He includes two groups that differ along a dimension of average advantage and disadvantage—for example, two racial groups that differ in their poverty rates. His model illustrates how contextual advantages and disadvantages from segregation are affected by demographic conditions like group relative size and the rates of group advantage and disadvantage. Quillian outlines a series of 11 conclusions from the theoretical model, applying the model to understanding racial segregation effects on racial group neighborhood poverty contact in U.S. cities.

Delinquency and Criminal Records

School Disciplinary Programs
Under the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Education began gathering and publishing national data on school discipline. The release of the data led to national concern over racial disparities in punishment, with researchers highlighting the problems associated with practices that erode the line between the criminal justice system and schools, such as police surveillance and arrest. Perhaps in response to these problems, many school districts have adopted restorative justice programs that allow youth to negotiate with each other and with adults to resolve misbehavior. IPR education sociologist Simone Ispa-Landa is examining how these very different disciplinary channels interact in schools, noting policy often encourages school administrators to implement programs that place police in schools, as well as to offer restorative justice programs—with no attention paid to how these two programs might represent conflicting goals and strategies for reducing student misbehavior. Ispa-Landa describes several hypotheses for how these multiple channels could deepen race and class inequality in punishment. Her hypotheses outline a program of research on school disciplinary practices and racial inequality.

Coping with a Criminal Record
For people with criminal records, expungement—the process by which criminal records are legally removed—can make it easier to find a job, get into college, and apply for loans. Yet what happens to those whose records are not eligible for expungement? Ispa-Landa conducted in-depth interviews with people deemed ineligible for expungement because of past felony convictions to understand how they coped with a permanent criminal record. During the interviews, participants challenged the social stigma surrounding ex-felons and displayed resentment and frustration with the criminal justice system. These reactions underscored interviewees’ beliefs that they were undeserving of the ongoing stigma and discrimination they faced due to their criminal records. At the same time, Ispa-Landa observed that participants were optimistic in talking about their futures; by and large, they believed they would succeed through hard work and persistence despite their records. According to Ispa-Landa, these hopeful beliefs suggest that participants were aware of the stigma surrounding people with criminal records but did not necessarily see themselves as lost causes. The results speak to the willingness of ex-felons to communicate their views of themselves as upstanding people and to take an active role in challenging wider negative views of those with criminal records.

Overcoming Criminal Records
U.S. criminal records are more accessible than ever, but little research exists on how people with criminal records seek to overcome the negative consequences associated with such a past. In research published in Criminology, Ispa-Landa and the University of Pennsylvania’s Charles Loeffler interviewed 53 Illinoisans who petitioned the courts to expunge their criminal records; 46 percent had extensive criminal records, while the rest had more minor ones. Both those with extensive and minor records tried, but failed, to persuade potential employers and landlords to overlook their records. Due to their records, it was common for them to experience rescinded job offers, rejected apartment applications, and more difficulty accessing financial aid for continuing education. Participants also expressed their distress over how their contact with the criminal justice system could follow them throughout their lives, subjecting them to stigma. The researchers suggest that policymakers consider how publicly available criminal records might differentially affect those with extensive records—who cannot obtain expungement—versus those with minor ones, who might be eligible to have their records expunged.

National Crime Victimization Survey
IPR political scientist and policing expert Wesley G. Skogan is participating in the redesign of the National Crime Victimization Survey. This federal survey, conducted continuously by the U.S. Census Bureau since 1972, is the nation’s leading source of information on crime and victims. Each year, the survey collects data from a nationally representative sample of households on the frequency, characteristics, and consequences of nonfatal personal crimes and household property crimes, both reported and not reported to police. The redesign aims to expand the list of crimes to include online fraud, identity theft, stalking, and LBGTQ harassment. Skogan is playing a major role in developing new questions for the survey regarding the police, community conditions, and anti-crime activities at the neighborhood level. A field test of the final instrument is planned for 2018, and the new questionnaire should be introduced in January 2020.

Sensation Seeking and Delinquency
Spending time with deviant peers and sensation seeking—when people search for varied and intense experiences and are willing to take risks for such experiences—are known to be risk factors for adolescent delinquency. Psychologist and IPR associate Jennifer Tackett studies this relationship in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, using a sample of more than 500 teenage twins to test how both peer deviance and sensation seeking affect delinquency. The study shows sensation seeking is a genetically influenced trait, and adolescents with higher sensation seeking are more likely to become friends with deviant teens and engage in delinquent behavior themselves. Compared with low sensation-seeking teens, high sensation-seekers are also more vulnerable to the social influences of their deviant peers. The research suggests both socialization processes and genetics contribute to delinquent behavior.

Delinquents and Drug Use Disorders
Abuse of and dependence on “hard drugs,” such as cocaine, hallucinogens, or opiates, are far less common among delinquent African-American youth than delinquent Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites, according to a recent Northwestern Medicine study co-authored by IPR associate Linda Teplin, Owen L. Coon Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Published in the American Journal of Public Health, the 12-year longitudinal study follows 1,829 male and female youth from when they were detained at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in the 1990s until their late 20s. During the 12 years after their detention, Hispanics and Caucasians were between 20 and 30 times more likely to abuse cocaine when compared with African-Americans. Yet African-Americans are incarcerated at much higher rates than either of these two groups. The study also finds gender differences:  Just over 91 percent of males and nearly 79 percent of females had a substance-use disorder by their late 20s. Females were more likely than males to abuse or be dependent on cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, and sedatives, while males were more likely to abuse or be dependent on marijuana and alcohol.

Community Policing and Criminal Justice

‘Stop and Frisk’ and Trust in Police
For police departments across the country, “stop and frisk”—an investigative procedure where an officer stops and questions an individual and then searches him or her—has become the strategy of choice for deterring crime. Skogan examines the consequences of such a policy in Chicago, focusing on how police encounters affect public trust in police. His major finding? “Stop-and-frisk” policies can serve to lower the public’s trust in the police. For his study, Skogan conducted a representative in-person survey of 1,450 Chicagoans in December 2015, nearly 30 percent of whom reported being stopped by police in the previous 12 months. He uncovered that Chicagoans’ encounters with police, or lack thereof, varied widely across demographic groups, and that police encounters shaped public trust in police. Only 11 percent of older, white females came into contact with police, but 68 percent of young African-American males reported a police encounter. Being stopped and frisked was “extremely common”: 75 percent of those who encountered police were stopped and frisked, compared with just 25 percent who were stopped for a violation. Racial minorities were more likely to report an abrasive or forceful encounter with police; only 17 percent of white respondents experienced police use of force, compared with more than 30 percent for other racial/ethnic groups. Across all racial and ethnic groups, those who had no police contact were more likely to trust police, and Skogan found that “stop-and-frisks” reduced trust in police at roughly the same level as other police stops, though these levels varied widely by race/ethnicity. Less than a third of black respondents who were stopped and frisked reported trust in police, compared with three-quarters of white respondents.

CPD Accountability Task Force
Skogan was one of 46 experts on the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force, serving on its Community Engagement Committee and advising the Police Oversight Committee. The task force’s lengthy report, released in April, begins with the “tipping point” of the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer in October 2014, and goes on to document widespread racial disparities, excessive use of force, accountability failures, and inadequate recruitment and training. Beyond these “hard truths,” the report also offers more than 100 recommendations to address the current ills facing the Chicago Police Department (CPD) that include relaunching community policing, dismantling several current agencies and boards, making statutory changes, improving training, renegotiating with police unions, and adding body cameras. The recommendations were informed, in part, by the 2015 survey that Skogan led (see “Stop-and-Frisk and Trust in Police”), asking randomly selected Chicagoans about their experiences with the CPD. The survey results showed that almost 70 percent of young African-American males in Chicago reported being stopped by police in the previous 12 months, a number far higher than any other demographic group.

Right-to-Carry Gun Laws and Crime
In the wake of mass shootings like the attack on Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, public debate erupts over the role of U.S. gun laws. But do such laws deter crime, or lead to more of it? When it comes right-to-carry (RTC) gun laws—which allow individuals to carry concealed handguns—the academic jury is still out. Despite dozens of studies using the same datasets, researchers have come to vastly different conclusions about the effects of RTC laws. In an IPR working paper forthcoming in the Review of Economics and Statistics, IPR economist Charles F. Manski and John Pepper of the University of Virginia present their own research on how RTC laws affect crime rates. In their analysis, they highlight the usefulness of considering varying assumptions to make it clearer how different assumptions affect the results. This type of analysis permits researchers to assess if the effects of RTC laws might vary across states, years, and crimes. After analyzing how RTC laws affected crime in Virginia, Maryland, and Illinois, they find the effects vary. Under some assumptions, RTC laws appear to have no effect on crime rates. Under others, RTC laws seem to increase rates for certain crimes, decrease them for some crimes, and have varying effects for others. While the results provide no easy answer, they highlight why researchers using the same data can arrive at such vastly different results and how different assumptions shape findings.