Understanding the Effects of Neighborhoods on Children: Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Measures of the Neighborhood Experience

Margot Jackson, University of California, Los Angeles
Robert D. Mare, University of California, Los Angeles

Studies of the effects of neighborhoods on children are often cross-sectional, rendering them unable to account for the dynamic nature of social life, and obscuring important aspects of neighborhood processes and outcomes. Studies that do consider residential mobility often examine the patterns of black and white children, leaving the neighborhood experiences of Latinos and Asians unclear. Using residential histories from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey for black, white, Latino and Asian children, we compare the cross-sectional approach with an approach that considers the fact that children's overall neighborhood experiences, not just their situation at one point in time, determine their life chances. Specifically, we ask two questions: 1) Do residential mobility and neighborhood change perpetuate inequality in exposure to disadvantage, or do they attenuate such inequality by reducing a child's cumulative exposure to poverty? 2) How do static vs. dynamic conceptions of neighborhood experience matter for children's outcomes?

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Presented in Session 21: Risk and Protective Factors for Children and Youth