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Neighborhood Violence and Urban Youth

In: The Problems of Disadvantaged Youth: An Economic Perspective

  • Anna Aizer

Three quarters of American children have been exposed to neighborhood violence in their lifetimes. Most of the existing research has concluded that exposure to violence leads to restricted emotional development, aggressive behavior and poor school outcomes. However, this literature fails to account for the fact that children exposed to neighborhood violence are highly disadvantaged in other ways: they are more likely to be black, poor and have poorly educated parents. As such, it is not clear whether exposure to violence or the underlying measures of disadvantage are responsible for the poor child outcomes observed. Using individual survey data on urban youth and their families from Los Angeles, we find that the most violent neighborhoods are also characterized by the highest degree of disadvantage: greatest poverty, highest unemployment, least education. And while living in a violent neighborhood increases the probability of exposure to violence, within violent neighborhoods those personally exposed to street violence are significantly more disadvantaged and are more likely to associate with violent peers than their unexposed neighbors. Once we control for observed and unobserved family disadvantage, the impact of violence declines for some child outcomes, suggesting that underlying disadvantage explains some of the negative outcomes observed, but not all - it is still the case that associating with violent peers is negatively correlated with cognitive test scores. In addition, when we control for underlying differences across families, the relationship between violence and internalizing behavioral problems appears stronger.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Jonathan Gruber, 2009. "The Problems of Disadvantaged Youth: An Economic Perspective," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number grub07-2, October.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 0598.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:0598
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.org
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    1. Jeffrey S. Zax & Daniel I. Rees, 2002. "IQ, Academic Performance, Environment, and Earnings," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(4), pages 600-616, November.
    2. Jeffrey R Kling & Jeffrey B Liebman & Lawrence F Katz, 2007. "Experimental Analysis of Neighborhood Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(1), pages 83-119, 01.
    3. Jeffrey R. Kling & Jens Ludwig, 2005. "Is Crime Contagious?," Working Papers 85, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
    4. Jeffrey Grogger, 1997. "Local Violence and Educational Attainment," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(4), pages 659-682.
    5. Anna Aizer, 2007. "Wages, Violence and Health in the Household," NBER Working Papers 13494, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Jeffrey Kling & Jeffrey B. Liebman & Lawrence F. Katz, 2001. "Bullets Don't Got No Name: Consequences of Fear in the Ghetto," JCPR Working Papers 225, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    7. Murnane, Richard J & Willett, John B & Levy, Frank, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 251-66, May.
    8. Grogger, Jeffrey, 2002. "The Effects of Civil Gang Injunctions on Reported Violent Crime: Evidence from Los Angeles County," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(1), pages 69-90, April.
    9. Janet Currie & Erdal Tekin, 2006. "Does Child Abuse Cause Crime?," NBER Working Papers 12171, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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