Growing up in bad neighborhood not as harmful as expected

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Teens, Children and Neighborhood

There's good news for children growing up in bad neighborhoods in a comprehensive study led by nationally renowned University of Colorado at Boulder sociology Professor Delbert Elliott.

The 8-year effort analyzing the successful development of children in different kinds of neighborhoods in Denver and Chicago found that children growing up in high-poverty neighborhoods were doing much better than expected. The rate of successful development for children from the best neighborhoods was 63 percent while the success rate for children living in high-poverty, disadvantaged neighborhoods was 52 percent.

"There's an 11-point difference between our worst neighborhoods and our best neighborhoods," said Elliott, director of the CU-Boulder Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence. "That's very surprising."

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"The idea that living in high-poverty, disorganized, disadvantaged neighborhoods is kind of a death sentence for kids is clearly not the case," he said. "We're getting kids coming out of those neighborhoods that are doing quite well."

The examination of neighborhoods was one of four integrated studies launched by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's Network on Successful Adolescent Development. The portion of the study conducted by Elliott and his colleagues looked at neighborhoods, while three other teams focused on family and school influences on development, and youth development in rural farming areas.

The results were published this fall in "Goods Kids From Bad Neighborhoods" by Cambridge University Press. The study was co-authored by Scott Menard, Amanda Elliott and David Huizinga of the CU-Boulder Institute of Behavioral Science, William Julius Wilson of Harvard University and Bruce Rankin of Koc University in Turkey.

The researchers used U.S. census data, personal interviews and focus groups to study 662 families and 820 youths age 10 to 18 from 33 neighborhoods in Denver, and 545 families and 830 youths from 40 neighborhoods in Chicago. Names of all neighborhoods in the study were changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants.

Relatively little is known about how

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