Much of the recent work on neighborhood and community influences has focused on high-poverty urban settings, which have grown substantially in size in recent years. The fraction of poor urban families living in high-poverty neighborhoods (i.e., with 40 percent or more of residents in households with incomes below the poverty line) nearly doubled, from 17 percent in 1970 to 28 percent in 1990 (Kasarda, 1993). During this period, urban poverty has been especially concentrated in the Midwest, in such cities as Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and Milwaukee, as well as in New York. This profile of cities may change with the findings from the 2000 census, since concentrated urban poverty is a slowly moving target. Residence in high-poverty urban neighborhoods is much more likely for black and Hispanic than white children (Kasarda, 1993).
Perhaps surprisingly, most poor children do not live in high-poverty urban neighborhoods. The most recent data, from the 1990 census, show that only 15 percent of all poor children live in high-poverty urban neighborhoods (Jargowky, 1997, Table 3.7). More than one-quarter of all poor children lived outside metropolitan areas altogether, while one-third lived in urban neighborhoods with poverty rates below 20 percent. These fractions differed little between young and older children.
The combination of family and neighborhood poverty, however, is much more prevalent among black than either Hispanic or white children. Some 27 percent of poor black children lived in high-poverty urban neighborhoods, compared with 20 percent of Hispanic and only 3 percent of white children. These children thus experience the double risk of family and neighborhood poverty.
William Julius Wilson (1987) galvanized empirical research on community and neighborhood effects with his description and analysis of conditions in high-poverty, inner-city Chicago neighborhoods. He documented the poor employment prospects, poor marriage pool, violence, and high mobility that were endemic to these neighborhoods. He also provided explanations of structural changes that produced these conditions as well as of how life in high-poverty urban neighborhoods affects the families and children living in them. Wilson hypothesized that massive changes in the economic structure of inner cities, when combined with residential mobility among more advantaged blacks, have resulted in homogeneously impoverished neighborhoods that provide neither resources nor positive role models for the children and adolescents who reside in them. Bronfenbrenner's (1979) ecological model of child development portrays nested layers of influence on children emanating from the family out to the more amorphous realms of neighborhoods, policies, and social values. More recently,