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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Measurements of Neighborhood Experience and Their Effects on Children

  • Author(s): Jackson, Margot
  • Mare, Robert D.
  • et al.

Despite the abundance of research on neighborhoods' effects on children, most studies of neighborhood effects are cross-sectional, rendering them unable to depict the dynamic nature of social life, and obscuring important aspects of neighborhood processes and outcomes. This study uses residential histories from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey to explore two questions: 1) How much do residential mobility and neighborhood change contribute to the overall variation in children’s neighborhood experience? 2) Does measuring neighborhood factors at more than one point in time matter for estimates of neighborhood effects? Results show that having information on residential mobility and neighborhood change over a two-year period does not greatly alter estimates of children’s neighborhood experiences. For blacks, however, residential mobility appears to cause economic heterogeneity in neighborhood poverty over time. Regarding neighborhood effects, considering residential mobility and neighborhood change does not change estimates significantly; for both unchanging and variable measurements of neighborhood experience, living in a high-poverty neighborhood has small but significant adverse effects on children's behavioral and academic well being. Despite the similarities between cross-sectional and longitudinal measurements, the results highlight variation between racial groups in their neighborhood experience, as well as the influence of both past and current neighborhood experience on children’s well being.

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