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Traps and Stepping Stones: Neighborhood Dynamics and Family Well-Being

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  • Briggs, Xavier

    (Harvard U)

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    Abstract

    Studies of context effects - for example, effects of neighborhoods, schools, kinship units, or all of these - on human behavior and well-being now span the social sciences and pose some of the most daunting analytic problems faced by social researchers. Understanding such effects is particularly important as metropolitan areas in the U.S. face continued economic restructuring and large-scale demographic change from migration, aging, and other forces, and as policymakers and researchers seek to understand and respond to increased economic inequality and its consequences. To date, however, almost all relevant research has either studied processes of neighborhood change (hinting at possible effects on individuals and families) or of human development (including possible effects of neighborhood characteristics). This theoretical essay argues strongly for integrating these largely separate enterprises and outlines basic frameworks for doing so. I discuss three dynamic functions - neighborhood change, individual exposure to risks and resources, and life course transitions - that contribute to neighborhood effects and use simple Markovian risk models to illustrate the importance of housing choices and outcomes over time. Neighborhoods may be thought of as traps, stepping stones, or springboards for families navigating the life course, not just stable, upgrading, or declining (in traditional terms). As such, efforts to leverage neighborhood context to improve child and family well-being must consider how housing mobility relates to other family strategies for getting by, getting ahead, and propelling the next generation. Keywords: neighborhood effects, contextual models, risk analysis, housing mobility, human development, poverty, segregation.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp04-015.

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    Date of creation: Mar 2004
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    Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp04-015

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    1. S. N. Durlauf, . "A Framework for the Study of Individual Behavior and Social Interactions," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1220-01, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    2. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser, 1995. "Are Ghettos Good or Bad?," NBER Working Papers 5163, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Margery Austin Turner & Stephen L. Ross, 2003. "Discrimination in Metropolitan Housing Markets: Phase 3 - Native Americans," Working papers 2003-43, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    4. Brock, William A. & Durlauf, Steven N., 2001. "Interactions-based models," Handbook of Econometrics, in: J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 54, pages 3297-3380 Elsevier.
    5. John M. Quigley & Steven Raphael, 2004. "Is Housing Unaffordable? Why Isn't It More Affordable?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 191-214, Winter.
    6. Mary Jo Bane & David T. Ellwood, 1986. "Slipping into and out of Poverty: The Dynamics of Spells," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 21(1), pages 1-23.
    7. Schelling, Thomas C, 1969. "Models of Segregation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(2), pages 488-93, May.
    8. Richard V. Burkhauser, 2001. "What Policymakers Need to Know about Poverty Dynamics," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(4), pages 757-759.
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