Links Between Neighborhood Characteristics and Outcomes for Minority Children
HUD recently posted a report entitled “Opportunity Neighborhoods for Latino and African American Children.” The report analyzed telephone and in-person surveys of current and former Denver Housing Authority (DHA) tenants, along with a variety of other data sources. The report demonstrates that neighborhood characteristics can be statistically significant predictors of outcomes for low-income Latino and African-American children and youth.
The researchers focused on six measures: physical and behavioral health, exposure to violence, risky behavior, educational outcomes, youth and labor market outcomes, and marriage and childbearing. DHA was selected because it administers large conventional public housing developments as well as smaller multifamily developments and scattered-site, single-family units in a wide range of neighborhoods throughout the city and county of Denver. Furthermore, from 1987 onward, applicants at the top of the waiting list were randomly assigned to a vacant unit in either the conventional or scattered-site units, making it possible to determine the differences in outcomes between children assigned to various neighborhoods.
The study found that favorable outcomes for Latino and African-American children were associated with living in neighborhoods with “higher occupational prestige,” higher percentages of foreign-born residents, and a lower score on a social problems index. The social problems index measured the caregiver’s assessment of disorder and crime in their neighborhood. In neighborhoods with higher occupational prestige, children have access to good role models and networks promoting better health, behavioral, and educational outcomes.
The consequences of higher neighborhood percentages of Latino and African-American ethnic composition and lower percentages of pre-1940–vintage housing were generally favorable, though more mixed depending on the outcome. And particular indicators seemed to exert their influence only on selected child outcomes: higher respiratory risk index, predicting poorer health outcomes, more risky behaviors, and inferior education outcomes; bad peers in the neighborhood, predicting more exposure to violence and risky behaviors.