The first focus of the Institute's Neighborhood Research
Group emerges from an overall interest in the political economy,
especially in the economic restructuring currently taking place in the
United States and in the world, and its impact on women's as well as
men's economic activity. Studies of poverty in the United States often
point to cultural or family characteristics of the poor as the main
source of poverty. Less studied are the effects of economic
restructuring, particularly the change from factory employment to
service employment, in increasing and concentrating poverty. Although
some analysts have suggested that family reproductive decisions, the
presence of middle class role models, and the suburbanization of
employment affect poverty, not many have looked at the effects of
economic restructuring, downsizing, economic polarization, and stagnant
and falling wages. Few have examined these factors in depth, and even
fewer have considered gender in their analyses. The study itself
consists of six stages of work. The first is to conduct background
research on the political economy in the Baltimore regional economy
post-World War 2. In this stage, the investigators review historical
documents and interview local authorities. This part of the research
concentrates on external factors which affect the local economy such as
regional transportation patterns, suburbanization trends, and
governmental policies affecting jobs and housing.
The second stage of the research involves collecting
longitudinal census data for the Baltimore City area. Here, researchers
look at statistics on employment, occupation, poverty, race, gender,
social class, shifts in occupational distributions, housing stocks, and
transportation networks. Most of the census level data and preliminary
research has already been conducted. "We've developed our research
design, made big inroads into the literature review, and have collected
much of the data. However, analysis of data has only just
begun,"according to Vanfossen.
The third stage of the research involves using the
longitudinal census data for the 200 neighborhoods in Baltimore City to
become familiar with the occupational and economic characteristics of
the populations in these areas. The investigators will compare the
occupational characteristics of the areas to the entire Baltimore
region. In the fourth stage, an ethnographic study of the two
neighborhoods which facilitate employment of their citizens and those
which do not will be conducted. The ethnographic research will focus on
the diversity within and between communities. This research will be
conducted with the aid of community research assistants who will perform
multiple tasks. This part of the research involves using "focus groups"
with young women and men; semi-structured interviews with community
insiders (local business people, religious leaders, community activists,
community service workers); interviews with young women and men who are
unemployed, underemployed, and/or have experienced only fragmented or
insecure employment to those with more secure employment or college
attendance; and participant observation. The ethnographic research will
focus specifically on two factors: "spacial mismatch" and social
isolation. Researchers will focus on how urban residents perceive and
use kin, friendship, neighborhood, school, and other networks to locate
and obtain jobs.
The fifth stage combines the longitudinal neighborhood
and economic data with longitudinal data on Baltimore children and their
families collected by the Prevention Research Center (PRC) at Johns
Hopkins University between 1985 and the present. In 1997, the PRC will
re-interview the 2000 children who by now are around 18 years old. The
NRG will examine how the adolescents are planning their futures with
reference to work patterns, educational expectations, and family
formation goals. An additional survey of the parents in 1999 will
collect detailed job histories, including job searching behavior as well
as employment status.
Focus 2: Community Violence and Child Development
The Second Focus of the research by the TSU's
Neighborhood Research Group is on "The Impact of Neighborhood Crime and
Violence on the Development of Children." High levels of crime and
violence in the neighborhood may have important effects upon the
pathways to adult educational and occupational attainment of children.
Yet, other characteristics of neighborhoods have a protective influence.
There may be strong systems of social cohesion and social control within
neighborhoods that guide the development of children, for example. There
may be economic opportunities which reward young people for commitment
to work. One purpose of this research is to identify the characteristics
of neighborhoods which promote adult attainment and positive mental
health, in spite of deleterious levels of neighborhood crime and
Protective influences may also emanate from parental
practices. Faced by economic deprivation, some parents experience spouse
conflict, which may spill over into hostile relationships with children.
Others are able to withstand the pressures of economic difficulty
without these deleterious side-effects.
The investigators plan first to establish whether high
levels of community violence encourage aggressive and antisocial
behavior among children as well as higher levels of emotional
depression. Then, they will see how these basic relationships are
altered or diminished by neighborhood resources and parental practices.
Finally, the group will see how community characteristics affect the
late teenage transition to adult pathways, such as additional schooling,
occupational activity, and family formation.