Emerging Scholars Explore Role of Neighborhood Norms in Kids’ Activities

Posted April 12, 2019
Making Connections

Photo credit: Susie Fitzhugh for the Casey Foundation

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Emerg­ing Schol­ars Ini­tia­tive equipped three ear­ly-career schol­ars with data from the Mak­ing Con­nec­tions Sur­vey. Their task? Look for con­nec­tions between the way par­ents in low-income com­mu­ni­ties per­ceive their neigh­bor­hoods and their children’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in edu­ca­tion­al and extracur­ric­u­lar programs.

Each schol­ar worked inde­pen­dent­ly — and came to the same basic con­clu­sion: infor­mal social con­trols play a large role in how fam­i­lies make deci­sions. The Foun­da­tion fund­ed the work as part of an effort to enhance the research tra­jec­to­ry of schol­ars of col­or, who were cho­sen through a com­pet­i­tive appli­ca­tion process.

Inter­est­ing­ly, all three papers stress the sig­nif­i­cance of the com­mu­ni­ty-based norms and prac­tices iden­ti­fied by sur­vey respon­dents, as opposed to more for­mal con­trols such as law enforce­ment,” says Jeff Poiri­er, senior research asso­ciate at the Casey Foundation.

The three schol­ars are:

  • Hen­ry Gon­za­lez of Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty, Sacra­men­to, who explored how par­ents’ per­cep­tions of neigh­bor­hood con­di­tions affect their children’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in orga­nized after­school activ­i­ties and absen­teeism from school — and how social sup­port net­works play a key role in mod­er­at­ing those connections.
  • Zoe­lene Hill of New York Uni­ver­si­ty, who exam­ined the rea­sons why chil­dren were not enrolled in preschool and oth­er ear­ly learn­ing pro­grams in low-income neighborhoods.
  • Eri­ka Niwa of Brook­lyn Col­lege, who stud­ied how par­ents’ per­cep­tions of neigh­bor­hood social cohe­sion shape children’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties and per­ceived edu­ca­tion­al opportunities.

A key take­away? Infor­mal social norms play a large role in how fam­i­lies make deci­sions, and can help guide engage­ment, out­reach and pro­gram­mat­ic approach­es in low-income communities.

Gon­za­lez, Hill and Niwa pre­sent­ed their research at NORC at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go with Uni­ver­si­ty of Chicago’s Chapin Hall and Casey fac­ul­ty in atten­dance. Their papers are cur­rent­ly being con­sid­ered for publication.

About the Mak­ing Con­nec­tions Survey

The Mak­ing Con­nec­tions sur­vey is a set of lon­gi­tu­di­nal data col­lec­tion activ­i­ties con­duct­ed over a 10-year peri­od in 10 U.S. cities. Sup­port­ed by the Casey Foun­da­tion, the sur­vey mea­sures both neigh­bor­hood change and changes in the well-being of chil­dren and families.

Learn more about Mak­ing Connections

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