Why Place Matters
Opportunity is unevenly distributed throughout metropolitan areas, which means that some places have considerably safer and more productive environments for residents than others. A number of factors contribute to the spatial distribution of opportunities. Poverty, discrimination, available employment, zoning, and local tax structures can all add to disparities between places. None of these factors alone can explain these disparities, nor can any single structural feature of a neighborhood explain the independent effect researchers have found neighborhoods to have on individuals. Rather a number of factors interconnect in certain places to concentrate disadvantage in some neighborhoods and to affect the well-being of residents.
This chapter provides background for the content of the workshop by reviewing three important areas of research on neighborhood and place. It begins with a brief discussion characterizing the current state of many inner-city neighborhoods and reviews briefly several important social, demographic, and economic trends that have yielded the spatial disparities that characterize inner-city conditions in the United States today. After discussion of the trends that have resulted in disparities in well-being among neighborhoods, the chapter describes two frameworks of analysis—spatial mismatch and neighborhood effects—that structure much of the current research on inner cities. In particular, these frameworks go beyond descriptions of the disparities among neighborhoods and explore how some neighborhoods, characteristics may have additional effects on the economic, psy
chological, and health status of residents. Research on how spatial mismatch can create barriers for inner-city residents is reviewed, as are opportunities to overcome these place-based challenges. Finally, research on neighborhood effects is discussed. In particular, the primary mechanisms researchers have proposed as translating neighborhood and place-based influences into effects on individual residents’ health and well-being are reviewed.
One issue worth noting at the outset of this chapter is that spatial mismatch has sometimes been conceptualized as one specific type of neighborhood effect. In fact, Ellen and Turner (1997), whose research is discussed later in this chapter, present a framework of neighborhood effects of which spatial mismatch is one major category. Throughout the workshop, spatial mismatch and its effects on residents were often discussed as if they were a type of neighborhood effect. Spatial mismatch does, however, have its own particular research trajectory separate from, if still connected to, neighborhood effects, and because of this it is presented separately in this chapter.
CREATING TODAY’S INNER-CITY NEIGHBORHOODS
Characterizing Concentrated Poverty: A Short Description
Inner-city neighborhoods are very different places today than they were 60 years ago or even 30 years ago. Since the 1970s, many inner-city neighborhoods have experienced an increasing concentration of poverty and a geographic isolation of poor families from middle-class and affluent ones. This trend toward concentrated poverty has also had an important racial component: African American neighborhoods—which proliferated in northern U.S. cities due to the migration of rural and southern blacks in the early part of the twentieth century—have experienced geographic isolation and concentrated poverty to a far greater extent than neighborhoods that are primarily white.
One way to understand the disparities among neighborhoods in metropolitan areas is to look at the distribution of poverty among them. Paul Jargowsky (1997) analyzed population growth in metropolitan areas with population growth in high-poverty areas by looking at census tracts in 239 metropolitan areas. These census tracts were classified as high poverty if the proportion of residents with incomes below the poverty line was greater than 40 percent.
Between 1970 and 19901 the total population in these metropolitan areas grew about 28 percent, whereas the population in high-poverty areas grew over 92 percent. The number of poor persons living in these 239 metropolitan areas grew 37 percent, but the number of poor persons living in the high-poverty areas grew 98 percent. In absolute numbers, the number of poor persons living in high-poverty areas increased from just over 4.1 million to 8.0 million. These figures indicate that a greater proportion of the total metropolitan area population lived in high-poverty areas in 1990 than in 1970 and that a greater proportion of poor persons in metropolitan areas were concentrated in high-poverty areas.
Members of minority groups were considerably more likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods than were non-Hispanic whites. Of the 239 metropolitan areas surveyed, the total number of whites living in high-poverty neighborhoods was 258,000 in 1970 and increased to 631,000 by 1990. This compares to 1.2 million African Americans living in high-poverty neighborhoods in 1970 and 2.1 million residing in such neighborhoods by 1990.
Concentrated poverty in inner-city neighborhoods is often accompanied by a number of factors that contribute to a lower quality of life in these areas: high rates of property and violent crimes, unemployment, and cash assistance receipt. Student academic performance is generally low, and dropout rates are high. Greater rates of accidental injury, illness, chronic disease, and low birth weight are often observed. The physical environment of these areas also suffers, as abandoned and vacant buildings proliferate, and empty lots and public spaces provide a haven for illicit activities (Coulton, 2001).
Historical Trends Leading to Spatial Disparities and Concentrated Poverty
Conditions in U.S. inner cities today are the products of such forces as demographic and economic trends and housing discrimination in the twen-tieth century. The following discussion offers a few brief examples of the ways in which the conditions of inner cities have been shaped by those forces.
Many southern and rural African Americans migrated to northern central cities during the twentieth century, significantly increasing the population of blacks living in urban neighborhoods (Sandefur et al., 2001). Most moved to these cities in hopes of finding greater economic opportunities and personal freedom, yet African Americans faced more severe racism than did immigrants from Asia and Europe, which limited their employment and educational opportunities.
Another demographic change that contributed to the concentration of poverty in inner cities was the outmigration of middle-class and affluent African Americans. Prior to the 1960s, inner-city African American neighborhoods in northern U.S. cities “featured a vertical integration of different income groups as lower-, working-, and middle-class professional black families all resided” in the same or nearby neighborhoods (Wilson, 1987, p. 49). Outmigration of the African American middle class was accompanied by, and in many cases preceded, the outmigration of middle-class and affluent whites from inner-city residences and, over time, a reduction in white patronage of African American inner-city businesses (Wilson, 1987). The residents left behind in inner-city neighborhoods were often the poorest and most disadvantaged and were now isolated from economic and social interactions with other classes.
While Wilson emphasizes the effect of class segregation on increasingly concentrated poverty and disadvantage in inner-city neighborhoods, Massey (2001) points to ways in which racial segregation and discrimination in housing contribute to concentrated poverty in African American neighborhoods. Citing recent empirical work, Massey argues that, although whites and African Americans currently share an ideological commitment to integrated housing, this ideology does not translate into actions that would accomplish actual integration. As a result, African Americans may find their ability to move close to high-job-growth areas seriously constrained.
Changes in the economy have contributed to inner cities with large
numbers of residents whose skills do not match the needs of the globalized economy. In the 1970s a significant restructuring of the U.S. economy left many low-skilled workers unemployed or unable to find jobs with decent pay. Although this change affected blue-collar workers of all races, African Americans were particularly hard hit because of their historic reliance on the manufacturing industry for employment (Wilson, 1996). Changes toward a global market have significantly exacerbated existing wage gaps between skilled and unskilled workers. The importance of education in terms of economic attainment has increased, which may be particularly problematic for poor African Americans. Mediocre and low-quality public schools, substandard community resources in terms of after-school educational opportunities, few good role models to demonstrate the positive outcomes of education, and limited social networks to help guide young people through the transitions of college, graduate or professional school, and job placement put families in high-poverty neighborhoods at a significant disadvantage (Holzer, 2001; Wilson, 1996).
TWO FRAMEWORKS IN RECENT RESEARCH: SPATIAL MISMATCH AND NEIGHBORHOOD EFFECTS
While the previous discussion highlights trends that have led to current inner-city conditions, identifying specific place-based factors that offer opportunities for public policy or intervention programs to create more equitable conditions in neighborhoods requires a slightly different analysis. Two frameworks have been particularly influential in research on place: research on spatial mismatch has focused on the geographic barriers between inner-city workers and employment opportunities, whereas neighborhood effects research has centered on the influence neighborhoods have on the individual outcomes of residents. Key issues in the scope of these two branches of research are highlighted in this section.
Spatial Factors That Reinforce Inequality
Structural factors deeply rooted in spatial relationships have had a significant role in creating and maintaining disadvantaged neighborhoods (e.g., racially and economically segregated housing, limited access to informal job networks, geographic distance from job opportunities that fit people’s skill levels, poor education, and other public services).
One theory meant to capture how space can impede opportunity is the
spatial mismatch hypothesis. According to Ihlanfeldt and Sjoquist (1998), this hypothesis “maintains that the suburbanization of jobs and involuntary housing market segregation have acted together to create a surplus of workers relative to the number of available jobs in submetropolitan areas where blacks are concentrated” (p. 849). This hypothesis suggests that, although there may be a pool of workers available to staff many low-skilled jobs, these workers are geographically isolated from the suburban areas where higher rates of job growth exist. Instead, this labor pool is concentrated in inner-city areas where few jobs are available. The effect is a surplus of workers for inner-city jobs—a situation that is not beneficial to workers—and geographic barriers such as limited public transportation that make it difficult for inner-city workers to take advantage of economic growth in outlying suburban areas. As a result, unemployment, low wages, and long commute times may persist among low-skilled, inner-city black workers despite economic growth in the greater metropolitan area.2
Research on the spatial mismatch hypothesis has illuminated several important issues about geographic mismatches between jobs and workers. First, in a careful review of current literature, Ihlanfeldt and Sjoquist (1998) found a solid body of empirical research indicating that spatial mismatch can account for a significant proportion of inner-city unemployment in many U.S. cities. Because of this, it is appropriate for policy analysts to consider spatial mismatch in policy formulation.
Second, although spatial mismatch is an important factor in many cities, it does not explain unemployment rates among inner-city workers in every city. In fact, research suggests that spatial mismatch may be primarily a problem of large metropolitan areas rather than of cities in general. Considering that some of the solutions to spatial mismatch are quite costly (e.g., significant increases in public transportation), it is imperative that policy analysts determine the extent to which mismatch is a problem for a particular city before recommending public expenditures to correct any geographic isolation of low-skilled, inner-city workers.
Another feature of spatial mismatch is that women appear to be particularly vulnerable to geographic mismatches, probably because of more
intensive domestic and child care responsibilities (Kasarda and Ting, 1996). For instance, even if public transportation were available to take workers to high-growth suburban areas, the long commute times associated with bus and rail systems would likely discourage many women from taking advantage of these opportunities. The challenges associated with finding child care that is affordable, geographically accessible (e.g., on the way to one’s job), and available beyond normal working hours to accommodate long commute times are difficult to overcome. Measures taken to address spatial mismatch may prove ineffective for many women if the measures do not also address the issue of child care or find strategies to shorten commute times.
Finally, by adding another barrier to employment opportunities, spatial mismatch has important implications for welfare-to-work programs—another issue that is particularly important for women and that is taken up in Chapter 3. Because of this, policy makers whose focus is to create effective welfare policy could improve the chances that programs will succeed if they take into consideration the extent to which spatial mismatch represents an important problem in their particular cities.
Although a number of empirical studies have sought to evaluate the presence of spatial mismatch in a city, fewer studies have sought to determine its underlying causes. Identifying the particular barriers that prevent workers from traveling to suburban jobs is essential if cities are to develop cost-effective policies to address spatial mismatch. Research by Holzer, Ihlanfeldt, and Sjoquist (1994), Ihlanfeldt and Young (1996), Holzer and Ihlanfeldt (1996), Ihlanfeldt (1997), Sjoquist (1996), and Turner (1997) has identified several important underlying causes to spatial mismatch. For example, one of the most important factors explaining why inner-city workers do not take advantage of new job opportunities is lack of public transportation to high-growth suburban areas. Other factors include employer and customer discrimination against African American and other low-skilled inner-city workers, lack of information about jobs in suburban areas, and perceptions among inner-city workers that they will experience discrimination in suburban job settings. In most cases a combination of these factors likely prevents inner-city workers from obtaining suburban jobs.
Ihlanfeldt and Sjoquist (1998) offer several suggestions for policies that could help alleviate some of these problems. Commuting programs linking inner-city neighborhoods to high-growth areas would be helpful in cases in which the main underlying factor of spatial mismatch is that workers sim
ply do not have transportation to those areas. Mobility strategies could include new bus routes and rail stops, greater frequency of public transportation service during off-peak hours, or new approaches such as sharing automobiles owned by the city or a private company. A second set of strategies—inner-city development strategies—involve trying to move jobs closer to the labor force. Policies to encourage residents and new businesses to move into cities generally form the foundation for these strategies. A final set of strategies centers on moving people closer to jobs or desegregating neighborhoods. Policies that would place low-cost publicly supported housing in suburban areas close to jobs is one example. Other policy options would try to alleviate some of the other causes for spatial mismatch: greater access to job information and placement services and new initiatives to overcome discrimination on the part of employers as well as the perception on the part of inner-city workers that they will be treated badly in the suburbs.
Many of these approaches have been tried in a number of cities, and most have met with limited or only very modest success. Urban planners, policy makers, and programmatic developers should take care to become familiar with the shortcomings of previous efforts. New designs on these broad solutions may well be needed and could meet with greater levels of success if they are carefully tailored to the particular challenges in a specific metropolitan area.
From Spatial to the Intangible: Neighborhood Effects
In addition to the challenges that physical distance can create in terms of workers reaching new jobs and information networks, space is important in that the nature of the place in which people live may have important effects on residents. This line of inquiry essentially seeks to answer the question of in what ways a neighborhood can itself actually influence individual outcomes. For example, Wilson (1987) discusses the influence that concentrated neighborhood poverty could have on residents in what he terms “concentration effects.” For Wilson the absence in a neighborhood of vertical integration of families with various levels of socioeconomic status and the concentration of the most disadvantaged segments of an urban population creates a social milieu that reinforces and perpetuates joblessness, crime, poor health outcomes, and poverty.
More recent research has conceptualized the impact on residents of an environment characterized by social isolation and concentrated poverty as
“neighborhood effects.” A 1999 report by the National Research Council’s Committee on Improving the Future of U.S. Cities Through Improved Metropolitan Area Governance offers the following definition of this term: “Neighborhood effects, broadly construed, are the effects imposed on individuals as a result of living in a specific neighborhood that the same individual (or household) would not experience if living in a different neighborhood” (p. 54). Neighborhoods may influence individuals in a broad range of areas, including criminal activity, employment, educational performance, and risky health practices (e.g., early sexual activity, no prenatal care, smoking, and drug use).
In their review of the literature on neighborhood effects, Ellen and Turner (1997) note that the majority of studies suggest that neighborhoods do indeed influence their residents. However, delineating the particular factors or variables in a neighborhood that are the most influential to residents has proven to be quite difficult, as has separating the influence of neighborhood from that of family or school. Selection bias may confound research on neighborhood effects in that more highly motivated individuals find ways to leave negative environments. Measured neighborhood effects may therefore capture unmeasured characteristics of those who remain.
Questions about the power of neighborhood effects on residents persist in this research. For example, in comparison to neighborhood effects, family characteristics consistently show a far more significant influence on individuals, and, in some recent studies, neighborhood has been shown to have a negligible independent effect when family characteristics were carefully controlled. As Ellen and Turner (1997) state: “Existing evidence is inconclusive when it comes to determining which neighborhood conditions matter most, how neighborhood characteristics influence individual behavior and well-being, or whether neighborhood effects differ for families with different characteristics” (p. 835).
Although empirical research has yet to definitively determine the most influential factors contributing to neighborhood effects, a number of theoretical models have been proposed to explain and organize the mechanisms through which neighborhood might affect individuals. The following discussion reviews the models proposed by three different authors. In doing so, it provides a glimpse of the trajectory of theorizing behind neighborhood effects while also providing an overview of the multiple complex ways in which neighborhoods can affect young people.
One of the most frequently cited and influential models is that of
Jencks and Mayer (1990), who propose five main mechanisms with regard to the way in which neighborhoods can affect child development. First, the neighborhood institutional resource mechanism focuses on the effect that community resources can have on young people. Parks, libraries, community centers, and other public resources provide opportunities for learning and socializing. The presence or absence of these resources can have important effects on children’s social and cognitive development. The second pathway, collective socialization mechanisms, centers on the influence of adult supervision, role modeling, and monitoring on children’s development. For example, adult supervision can prevent young people from engaging in inappropriate behaviors, and adult role models can demonstrate the importance of various values (e.g., hard work, cooperation) and can teach children valuable life skills (e.g., tasks associated with maintaining a home or car, good work habits).
While the first two mechanisms describe what one would want in a neighborhood (i.e., it is desirable to have many good institutional resources and adult supervision of children), the next three mechanisms focus on negative influences on neighborhood—features one would seek to reduce. The contagion or epidemic models posit that problem behaviors exhibited by neighbors or peers can spread to young people. The mechanism of competition suggests that neighborhoods in which individuals compete for limited resources can create difficult and negative relationships within a peer group that can yield negative outcomes. Finally, the relative deprivation mechanism suggests that “neighborhood conditions affect individuals by means of their evaluation of their own situation relative to neighbors or peers” (Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn, 2000, p. 310). For example, if the majority of high school students from an affluent neighborhood, plan to take the SAT, a classmate from a highly disadvantaged neighborhood might opt to take the SAT, too—a positive outcome to positive peer influence. However, in the relative deprivation model, if the same teen perceives him-or herself to be quite different (i.e., more disadvantaged) than his or her peers, he or she may be discouraged from taking the SAT—a negative outcome to what otherwise could be a positive influence.
Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn (2000) offer another model of neighborhood effects that is a consolidation of Jencks and Mayer’s work and that features three broad mechanisms. The first mechanism—institutional resources—is largely the same as Jencks and Mayer’s, although Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn note the effects of learning and social opportunities as well as access to medical facilities and employment in a neighborhood. The second
mechanism—relationships—captures family characteristics, such as coping skills and mental health, available support networks, and the peer relationships of adults and young people. Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn’s approach to relationships is interesting because it insists on recognizing the interconnection between characteristics normally conceptualized as unrelated to neighborhoods (e.g., parental mental health is thought of as a family characteristic) and how these types of characteristics may become especially important and complicated in a neighborhood characterized by stress and disadvantage. For instance, a parent’s mental illness may be more likely to go unrecognized, unnoticed, or unsupported in a neighborhood in which there are few social networks.
The final mechanism is norms/collective efficacy, which explores to what extent “community-level formal and informal institutions exist to supervise and monitor [the] behavior of residents, particularly youths’ activities (deviant and antisocial peer-group behavior) and the presence of physical risk” to children and other adults (Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn, 2000, p. 322). This mechanism focuses broadly on monitoring, noting the importance of neighbors paying attention to the behavior of children and adults. That the authors include collective efficacy in the title of the mechanism is significant because collective efficacy emphasizes not only a willingness to keep tabs on others but also the will to act and intervene on behalf of a neighbor or child (e.g., to call the police if one observes an attack or to chastise children caught spray painting a garage).
Although Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn’s approach is a more consolidated one than that proposed by Jencks and Mayer, it has significant benefits. One strength is that Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn stress that each of their pathways can be considered in light of how neighborhoods might affect residents across the life span rather than focusing exclusively on the effects of neighborhood on child and adolescent development. That Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn offer a conceptualization of how neighborhood characteristics could affect adults as well as young people is somewhat different from Jencks and Mayer’s approach, which focuses primarily on neighborhood effects on young people.
Ellen and Turner (1997) adopt a rather different approach to the mechanisms of influence by focusing on creating a model that describes the link between specific neighborhood characteristics and individual outcomes. These mechanisms include quality of local services, socialization by adults, peer influences, social networks, exposure to crime and violence, and physical distance and isolation. The final mechanism—physical dis
tance and isolation—dealt largely with spatial mismatch and its effects on issues like job networks and employment, all of which were addressed in the section devoted to spatial mismatch. The effects of spatial mismatch will not be reviewed again, but it is worth repeating that much of the discussion at the workshop followed this format of treating spatial mismatch within the framework of neighborhood effects. The exception to this was the presentation by Claudia Coulton who directly addressed spatial mismatch in her research.
For Ellen and Turner the quality of local public services is largely analogous to the institutional resources models of Jencks and Mayer and Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn, again emphasizing the effect that access to educational, health, and socialization opportunities may have on young people and adults. One difference is that Ellen and Turner emphasize the quality—not just the availability—of resources, pointing out that poor residents may be particularly vulnerable to the influences of their local services because few may have the means to find other services elsewhere if neighborhood ones are of low quality or entirely absent. For example, low-quality preschools, with less skilled staff, fewer volunteers to work with students, and limited educational resources, may fail to properly prepare young children for kindergarten—a situation known to predispose disadvantaged students to lower academic outcomes later. The absence of health care services in a neighborhood can affect youth and adults as it will be harder to obtain treatment for routine illnesses or chronic problems such as asthma. This can lead to more frequent absences from school or work, which can cause academic performance to suffer or may result in lower income.
Ellen and Turner separate the influence of socialization into two mechanisms. The second mechanism—socialization by adults—recognizes that the adults in a community exert a significant influence on young people by serving as role models, monitors, teachers, and disciplinarians. Adults also create and demonstrate to young people how to participate in the community’s power structure. If the majority of adults are unemployed or participate in secondary or illicit markets, young people may fail to see the relationship between educational attainment and successful employment and the benefits associated with steady professional employment. Under these circumstances, the patterns of socialization that young people come to emulate may also be detrimental in other social settings.
Peer influences, the third mechanism, emphasizes that the norms of a peer group can exert a positive or negative influence depending on group expectations and the relationship between the individual and the group.
For instance, peer behaviors and attitudes may influence an adolescent to begin smoking or to initiate sexual activity earlier than the adolescent otherwise might. Alternatively, peers may inspire an adolescent to put more energy into studying or to apply to college. Ellen and Turner note that peers exert different types of influence at different ages—adolescents spend more time with their peers and so may be more affected by group norms, whereas younger children may be greatly affected by the examples set by older children whom they admire.
The fourth mechanism—social networks—emphasizes the importance of formal and informal networks on individual outcomes. For example, job networks provide individuals with information about new positions. Such networks can be of even greater assistance in helping a job seeker obtain a position if an employed person vouches for the character and abilities of the job seeker. Social networks can also provide other types of support, such as neighbors who can help with child care, that can enable working families to more easily maintain steady employment.
Social networks may be neighborhood based or may extend beyond one’s immediate community. With regard to job networks, Ellen and Turner (1997) noted that individuals whose social networks are centered only in their neighborhoods will be more constrained by a neighborhood in which fewer people work because job information will be limited to a few businesses. This line of thought can be extended to other areas of well-being. For instance, neighborhoods that lack a significant number of adults who are prepared to offer support, such as picking up another parent’s child from school along with their own, means that children may be left to their own devices more often and that some families or single parents may need to go without steady employment in order to meet their children’s care needs.
The final mechanism—exposure to crime—can have serious and readily apparent effects on young people and adults. Certainly not the least of these effects is the acute impact in the form of sustained injuries that a violent crime may have on a victim’s health. Violent crime also carries a number of emotional and psychological effects that may be longer lasting than injuries sustained in an attack. These psychological effects may extend well beyond the victim of a crime to those who witnessed the act as well as to the children and friends of a victim who observe the victim’s recovery (or decline). Children may be particularly affected by secondary exposure to violent crime in that they may be led to “see the world as fundamentally violent, dangerous, and unjust,” and over time breaking the law may begin
to seem like a normative activity to adolescents (Ellen and Turner, 1997, p. 841). Individuals living in high-crime neighborhoods might significantly curtail their activities (e.g., avoiding outside activities because of gunshots, not walking to the local church for community activities for fear of being victimized). This type of isolation may improve one’s chances of not being the victim of some types of crime but it also reduces a person’s ties to the community. If there are beneficial social networks in the neighborhood, a resident who isolates him- or herself from the community will not be able to take advantage of these networks or pooled community resources.
Unlike Jencks and Mayer and Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn, Ellen and Turner identify a number of structural factors and neighborhood variables that consistently correlate with negative individual outcomes. In this respect, their model may be useful in testing specific relationships that characterize many neighborhoods. In contrast, a model like that of Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn, which is more conceptual and open ended in nature, may be more helpful in identifying new phenomena and mechanisms specific to a given neighborhood.
What should be apparent from this discussion is that the ways in which neighborhood effects influence individuals are often less straightforward than might be expected. Specifically, in each broad mechanism there may be a number of paths through which factors such as public services and adult socialization may influence residents. For example, it is no surprise that peer groups influence the behavior of an adolescent in a peer group, but in what direction that influence might push an adolescent is not necessarily evident. An adolescent placed in a more affluent school outside of his or her neighborhood could be carried toward better educational performance by a group of academically minded peers, or might be seriously discouraged by the advantages of the peer group and may come to believe that success will always be out of reach.
This example sheds light on why it can be so challenging to identify the influential factors underlying neighborhood effects because many such effects interact with qualities inherent to individuals in complicated ways. Developing effective policy and programmatic responses is made more challenging by the complexity of neighborhood effects. The positive news is that the body of literature in this area has grown significantly, and as nuances of the pathways through which neighborhoods can influence individuals are better understood, better interventions will be designed.
This chapter highlights important themes concerning why place matters. Significant disparities characterize conditions in many inner-city neighborhoods when compared with other parts of metropolitan areas. This is exemplified by the high rates of poverty and the increasing concentration of poverty in many metropolitan area neighborhoods. In addition, neighborhood disparities create significant barriers to opportunity for residents living in these areas. Research on spatial mismatch and neighborhood effects reflects these barriers and identifies factors and mechanisms that policy and intervention programs could seek to influence.
The next chapter explores some of the most recent research on spatial mismatch and neighborhood effects, particularly as they relate to several present-day policy challenges—namely, transitions from welfare to work, child and adolescent development, and the status of public health. These topics were examined in detail in the papers prepared for the workshop and build more thoroughly on concepts of spatial mismatch and neighborhood effects. This type of research has much potential in helping urban planners and policy makers positively affect inner-city, place-based disparities.