Recent Urban Policy and Community Development Research
- Urban Poverty Concentration
- Cross-National Urban Issues
- Race and Income Segregation
- Community Policing and Criminal Justice
Three Segregations and Concentrated Urban Poverty
Research published in the American Sociological Review by Quillian finds that blacks and Hispanics tend to have neighbors from other racial groups who are disproportionately likely to be poor, even for high-income black and Hispanic households. This contributes importantly to the high poverty rates of the neighborhoods lived in by black and Hispanic families and to high poverty rates in the schools attended by black and Hispanic children. Quillian analyzed data from the 2000 census and found that the disproportionate poverty of blacks’ and
Hispanics’ neighbors who are of other races plays an important role in creating racial disparities in neighborhood poverty. He develops a model to mathematically decompose sources of poverty concentration as a product of demographic conditions including forms of segregation. He finds that concentrated poverty in minority communities results from three segregations: racial segregation, poverty-status segregation within race, and segregation from high- and middle-income members of other racial groups. Past work has emphasized racial segregation and poverty-status segregation within race, but has missed the important role played by the disproportionately low-income levels of different-race neighbors of blacks and Hispanics. Quillian concludes that we need to consider the complex combination of race and income segregation in policies to reduce poverty concentration.
MacArthur Network on Housing for Families and Children
With a major grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, IPR social psychologist Thomas D. Cook is leading an interdisciplinary team of social scientists in carrying out a longitudinal study of how housing matters for families and children. The network is comprised of some of the nation’s top researchers in housing, poverty, and child development. Through a random-assignment study of 2,650 families and 3,450 children in four cities (Seattle, Dallas, Denver, and Cleveland), the network will gain a more direct understanding of how housing makes families stronger and improves outcomes for children. The signature study will span three and a half years, with three waves of data collection. In particular, the researchers will observe housing effects on children from birth until age eight and try to understand questions left unanswered in previous housing studies. Until now, research has developed theories for why housing matters, but there is, as of yet, little evidence of the ways in which children’s lives are improved because of better housing. As a result of the inability to definitively link specific housing characteristics to child outcomes, housing is rarely considered in policy decisions about child welfare. This study takes a broad, multidisciplinary approach, pulling together theoretical perspectives from a variety of disciplines, including statistics, sociology, economics, urban studies, education, and child development, to investigate how housing and the surrounding social, institutional, and family environment can affect children’s health, education, behavior, and life outcomes. Cook is Joan and Sarepta Harrison Chair in Ethics and Justice.
Focusing on inequalities found in neighborhoods and institutions between France and the United States, 25 researchers came together for a two-day workshop to discuss issues related to education, health, and employment. Held on June 23–24, the second annual transnational workshop was co-sponsored by IPR and Science Po’s Observatoire Sociologique du Changement (OSC) and took place at Northwestern University.
The opening panel examined the relationship between neighborhoods and education. In France, a recent reform now allows students to apply to go to any public school within their district. The hope was that it would send more disadvantaged students to better schools. Yet from interviews and a comparison of the reform’s effects in two départements (counties), one more advantaged than the other, OSC sociologist Marco Oberti and professor emeritus Edmond Préteceille find the reform has instead destabilized the system. Not only has it failed so far to create more educational opportunities for low-income students, it also seems to be contributing to growing stratification between schools.
In the United States, levels of residential segregation are typically higher than in France. IPR social psychologist Thomas D. Cook and IPR postdoctoral fellow Coady Wing discussed the results of three experiments with the Housing Choice Voucher Program, also referred to as “Section 8,” the main U.S. housing program for low-income families. Averaging around $7,600 per family a year, this federal program amounts to $40 billion per year, yet surprisingly little research has been conducted on it. Cook and Wing examine the three major studies involving voucher programs—Moving to Opportunity, Chicago Housing Authority, and Welfare to Work. The two researchers find that all three experiments resulted in small improvements in moves to better neighborhoods and housing quality; however, the program basically serves as an income-support program.
IPR education economist David Figlio launched the second panel with a presentation on the pathways through which the intergenerational transmission of advantage operates and its effect on school choice and voucher programs. Related research on the effect of class on school choice and competition in France was discussed by OSC’s Agnès van Zanten, followed by a presentation by Northwestern doctoral student Dawna Goens on parent-school relationships and parent empowerment.
The focus was on economic well-being in the following panel, which featured IPR economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and sociologist Christine Percheski. Schanzenbach discussed the long-term health and economic effects of the U.S. Food Stamp Program for children, while Percheski compared and contrasted family characteristics and economic well-being in the recent recession versus the recessions of the early 1980s. Additional panels analyzed the various ways class inequality influences the behavior of young people and included IPR associate Barton Hirsch, who spoke about the school-to-work transition among low-income and minority youth; Northwestern doctoral student Robert Vargas; and Agathe Voisin and Hugues Lagrange of OSC.
The second day began with a joint presentation by OSC’s Philippe Coulangeon and Mirna Safi on the social mobility of second-generation immigrants in France, and then economist Joseph Ferrie, an IPR associate, discussed his research on the effects of childhood lead poisoning. The next panel discussed the various ways in which inequality impacts urban areas with presentations by IPR political scientist Wesley G. Skogan on his work examining neighborhood context and crime, as well as Bruno Cousin, an assistant professor at the University of Lille 1, and OSC director Alain Chenu, who discussed their research on problems specific to France’s urban areas.
IPR sociologist James Rosenbaum and IPR graduate research assistant Kelly Iwanaga Becker each presented a lecture on ways to reduce inequality in college enrollment rates that resulted from a recent study examining the ways different high schools handle the college application process. Inequality in relation to child welfare was discussed next—first by IPR law professor Dorothy Roberts, who discussed how child welfare systems in the United States disproportionately affect minorities, and then by Mathieu Ichou, a doctoral student from OSC, who focused on inequities for children who have immigrated to France. The workshop’s last panel included a presentation from IPR associate and education researcher James Spillane on ways in which urban students are perceived, and concluded with a comparison of social mobility experiences in France, India, and the United States by OSC postdoctoral fellow Jules Naudet. Quillian co-organized the workshop with Figlio and OSC’s Oberti. The Partner University Fund of the FACE Foundation, NYC supported the workshop.
At the 2011 annual meeting of the Population Association of America, IPR sociologist Lincoln Quillian discussed his work to provide a formal demographic model of how segregation contributes to inequality through increasing the level of contextual advantage experienced by members of advantaged segregated groups and the level of contextual disadvantage of disadvantaged segregated groups. His model begins with two groups that differ along a dimension of average advantage and disadvantage, such as two racial groups that differ in their poverty rates. The model employs standard measures of segregation and contact, and illustrates how the contextual advantages and disadvantages from segregation are affected by the size of the group and the rates of group advantage (or disadvantage). It also considers complexities that occur when the characteristics that define advantages or disadvantages, such as income or poverty, have independent effects. The decomposition can be applied to understand how segregation contributes to contextual advantage for advantaged group members in a variety of situations, including neighborhoods, schools, and friendship networks.
Dynamic Models of Race and Income Segregation
Housing trends in many U.S. cities clearly reflect decades of racial segregation. But why do current residents continue to relocate along racial lines? Quillian is examining the modern day causes of urban racial segregation in a project with Elizabeth Bruch of the University of Michigan. One hypothesis is that a community’s racial make up directly affects the decision to move—or not to move—to a certain community, either due to prejudice or to a preference for living among neighbors of one’s own race. A second hypothesis is that race only appears to matter because it is associated with other characteristics that do matter to households, such as school quality or poverty and crime rates. To test these hypotheses, Quillian and Bruch have developed new methods for modeling residential mobility across neighborhoods. Their discrete choice models incorporate multiple characteristics of destination neighborhoods, thus improving the model’s realism in replicating residential decision making. Preliminary results suggest that racial composition is a major factor in residential mobility decisions, even controlling for housing prices, economic status, and other factors of the communities to which people move. The research is supported by the National Institutes of Health.
21st Century Justice
Three of the nation’s leading researchers on crime and criminal justice discussed some major changes in the American criminal justice system and policy implications at a March 28 IPR forum at Northwestern University. IPR political scientist Wesley G. Skogan took stock of policing reforms. Though enthusiastically brought forward, reforms and innovations often fail due to factors such as rapid leadership turnover and poor inter-agency cooperation. Looking ahead, Skogan pointed to technological innovations—such as in-car cameras and data warehouses. IPR associate John Hagan, John D. MacArthur Professor of Sociology and Law, discussed changes in prison funding in California. Since 1992, prisons are no longer built with pay-as-you-go funding, but with lease revenue bonds, which do not require voter approval, create public debt, and generate fees for the institutions servicing the debt—helping to create economic incentives to build more. Discussing the enormous difficulties of trying to change gun regulations, University of Chicago economist Jens Ludwig recommended focusing on stepped-up enforcement by reducing young people’s access to and use of guns, targeting illegal gun-carrying, and cracking down on gun-supply networks to prevent criminals from obtaining them.
Welfare Reform and Criminal Behavior
In an article in Poverty & Public Policy, IPR social policy professor Dan Lewis and co-author Lindsay Monte of the U.S. Census Bureau examine the links between gender, welfare receipt, financial hardship, and crime. Using data from the Illinois Families Study, they looked for trends in arrests to determine whether the 1996 welfare reform legislation enacted under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program affected the criminal behavior of current and former recipients. They found that, when available, employment seems to prevent criminal behavior, lending some support to the work-first focus of TANF.
However, they found that the loss of income (whether from work or welfare), coupled with human capital characteristics, predicts criminal behavior among female welfare recipients. This suggests that those with fewer personal resources competing in the highly unstable lower-reaches of the labor market might be more likely to turn to crime. It also indicates that for some individuals, the current welfare system could actually increase the odds of criminal behavior, rather than decreasing them.
Learning about Police Organizations
To improve police policies and practices, researchers and practitioners must work toward a shared understanding of when and how particular data and research efforts can be used. With support from the National Institute of Justice, a team of police executives and leading police researchers that includes Skogan is developing a new, more productive and efficient way to learn about policing in the United States. This initiative, called the National Police Research Platform, is being implemented in selected jurisdictions around the country. Skogan and his team have conducted 108 surveys involving more than 12,000 police employees and developed Internet-based procedures for police surveying, as well as negotiated the cooperation of many police chiefs in the project. The platform hopes to better enable law enforcement executives and supervisors to collect valid, useful data on their own organizations to determine the best organizational practices, and allow other organizations to compare their information to benchmarks for agencies of similar size and type.
Despite 15 years of declining crime, Chicago continues to be one of the nation’s leading cities for homicide. Project CeaseFire, a community-based initiative of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention, aims to address this issue by reducing gun and gun-related violence in targeted areas in Chicago and the state. Skogan and his team recently completed a three-year, multisite evaluation of the program’s effectiveness, and he is currently at work on a book about the study, which will be published by Oxford University Press. In addition to fieldwork, interviews, and surveys, the researchers also examined the program’s impact on shootings and killings through a statistical analysis of time series data, a network analysis of gang homicide, and innovative use of computerized crime mapping techniques that use geographic information systems (GIS). The project was supported by the National Institute of Justice and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Skogan was part of a research team that completed a study to determine whether public housing relocatees have a significant impact on crime in the neighborhoods they move to when using housing vouchers. Commissioned by the Chicago Housing Authority, the researchers examined the moves of Plan for Transformation housing voucher recipients from 1999 to 2008, collecting 25,000 data points from 813 different census tracts. They tracked those who moved in or out of a census tract on a quarterly basis and then looked at crime in the same tract in the ensuing quarter and plugged this information into a regression model. In both Chicago and Atlanta, which they also studied, they found citywide decreases in violent, gun, and property crime. Crime in neighborhoods where the public housing projects once stood dropped dramatically—a 60 percent drop in violent crime, 70 percent in gun crime, and 49 percent in property crime. Crime also decreased in the areas where voucher residents resettled; however, not as much as predicted had these voucher families stayed where they were. The researchers cite possible reasons for this, including higher victimization of relocated young men, disrupted social controls, and displacement. Overall, the city experienced a crime decline of 1 percent. While this might look like a tiny number, the take home point, Skogan said, is that crime on Chicago Housing
Authority property has never played a huge role in citywide crime rates. Nowhere in the city is crime as high or as dangerous now as it was when the public housing projects were standing.
Children of Incarcerated Parents
Sociologist and legal scholar John Hagan continues his work with Holly Foster of Texas A&M University to trace how having an incarcerated parent can affect a child’s life. Parental incarceration affects about one-fifth of elementary school children in the United States. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health for 2,000 children of incarcerated fathers, Hagan and Foster are following the children into mid-adolescence and early adulthood. One finding is that having an imprisoned father and also attending a school where many other children have fathers in prison can lower college completion rates from 40 to 10 percent. Another finding is that these fathers go missing during a critical development period for the children, and this absence then follows their children through life, compounding their inability to complete college and severely limiting their future opportunities. Hagan is John D. MacArthur Professor of Sociology and Law.
Underlying Problems of Delinquency
Each year between 300,000 and 600,000 youth spend time in juvenile detention facilities around the nation, with a disproportionate number being low-income and minority youth. IPR economist Jonathan Guryan, with Sara Heller and Jens Ludwig of the University of Chicago, is examining the underlying problems that cause youth to become involved with delinquency and violence. Previous research indicates that deficits in noncognitive skills—such as self-regulation, impulse control, social information processing, and moral reasoning—might account for involvement with, and relapses into, delinquency. Using a randomized experimental design and with support from the Smith Richardson Foundation, the researchers will begin collecting data on all the approximately 4,000 male juveniles, most of whom are Latino or African American, entering a county juvenile detention system over 14 months. These youth have been randomly assigned to either a typical residential center or one providing a cognitive behavioral therapy intervention to promote noncognitive skill development. The researchers have uncovered themes shared by a number of effective interventions, which might prove to be efficacious in part because they promote adaptive personality trait development.