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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Mobility in Isolation: Neighborhood Effects, Spatial Embeddedness, and Inequality in the Migration Pathways of the Urban Poor
by Graif, Corina, Ph.D., Harvard University, 2011, 239; 3462774
Abstract (Summary)

The importance of neighborhoods in shaping residents' wellbeing and behavior has long been recognized by social scientists and policymakers and heated debates periodically reignite about the adequate measurement of neighborhoods. This dissertation contributes to the neighborhood effects and urban inequality literatures by moving the focus beyond the neighborhood to examine the extent to which the spatial context of the neighborhood matters for individual wellbeing. It makes the case that, independent of how we define neighborhoods, people often navigate a geographic and cultural space that cuts across neighborhood boundaries. It investigates: a) how the urban geography of inequality and cumulative spatial disadvantage shape the wellbeing of the inner-city poor; b) racial/ethnic disparities in residential mobility trajectories; and c) the extent to which space, place, collective processes, social networks, job densities and local organizations interact to affect individuals, focusing in particular on adult mental health and obesity and on youth risky behavior and delinquency. To address these questions, the author analyzes data from the Moving to Opportunity Experiment in five US cities (Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Baltimore, and Chicago), together with data from PHDCN, and a large data set put together based on Census, LEHD and other administrative records to create a battery of neighborhood indices for the entire US across several years. The project employs instrumental variable and counterfactual methodology along with spatial econometric, GIS, and social network techniques to assess the geographic and socio-structural clustering patterns of advantage and disadvantage along the residential trajectory of families in these studies.

Findings indicate, first, that spatial context measures such as proximity to the nearest ghetto decrease mental health and increase the prevalence of obesity and modify the effects of the immediate neighborhood. Second, spatial inequality contributes in important ways to explaining gender differences in youth involvement in risky behavior and delinquency. Third, spatial trajectories of different racial and ethnic groups exhibit important disparities that align with existing segregation patterns. Moreover, spatial proximity and similarity between any two neighborhoods on multiple dimensions significantly constrain residential mobility patterns, which indicates the importance of the general network context within which neighborhoods are embedded that incorporates but goes beyond spatial interdependencies.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Sampson, Robert J.
School: Harvard University
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 72/09, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Geography, Criminology, Individual & family studies, Social structure
Keywords: Crime, Mental health, Migration, Neighborhood effects, Obesity, Space, Spatial embeddedness, Urban poor
Publication Number: 3462774
ISBN: 978-1-124-73766-9
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