Study Finds Economically Diverse Neighborhoods Benefit Low-Income Black and Latino Youth

Recent research of a Denver public housing program that assigns low-income families to a variety of neighborhoods found that black and Hispanic teenagers who live in mixed-income neighborhoods are less likely to drop out of school than those living in predominantly lower-income ones. George Galster, a professor of urban affairs at Wayne State University, and his co-authors found that economic desegregation can improve the educational outcomes of low-income students of color.

The researchers looked at such neighborhood elements as income level, employment rate, and prevalence of crime, and conducted extensive interviews with program recipients. The Denver program randomly assigns families, which made it ideal for research because, with self-selection removed from the equation, the results of the research are based on place rather than individual choice.

While the findings show variations in benefits for black versus Latino youth, the researchers claim that these young people on the whole gain from living in economically diverse neighborhoods. Better outcomes included educational performance in elementary and secondary school, such as grade point average and likelihood of repeating a grade. Galster found that teenage blacks and Latinos who live in higher occupational status neighborhoods are less likely to drop out of school. And young adults, especially blacks, in such neighborhoods have a lower chance of receiving public assistance.