Patrick Sharkey
Associate Professor of Sociology (NYU Department of Sociology)

Patrick Sharkey will join NYU's Department of Sociology and the Wagner School of Public Service in the Fall of 2007, after completing his doctoral degree in Sociology and Social Policy at Harvard. He has published in academic outlets including the American Sociological Review, the Journal of Policy Analysis and
Management, the American Review of Public Administration, and the Journal of Black Studies.

His research focuses on various issues related to inequality in urban neighborhoods. One strand of research seeks to describe and explain the persistence of neighborhood inequality in Americas cities, and the mechanisms by which this inequality persists over time and across generations of family members. A second strand of his work focuses on the consequences of persistent neighborhood inequality for the life chances of individuals from different racial and ethnic groups in America. This research involves incorporating the neighborhood environment into empirical models of economic and social mobility, and estimating the cumulative influence of neighborhoods on adolescent developmental outcomes. Sharkey has published research examining how aspects of the neighborhood environment influence the choices that adolescents make as they navigate potentially violent streets, and his current work focuses on the
relationship between long-term neighborhood disadvantage and individual cognitive development, violent behavior, and victimization.

Date Publication/Paper

Sharkey, Patrick. 2012. An Alternative Approach to Addressing Selection into and out of Social Settings: Neighborhood Change and African American Children’s Economic Outcomes Sociological Methods & Research

Sharkey, Patrick. 2012. Temporary Integration, Resilient Inequality: Race and Neighborhood Change in the Transition to Adulthood Demography


Sharkey, Patrick and Felix Elwert. 2011. The Legacy of Disadvantage: Multigenerational Neighborhood Effects on Cognitive Ability American Journal of Sociology 116: 1934-1981
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This study examines how the neighborhood environments experienced over multiple generations of a family influence children's cognitive ability. Building on recent research showing strong continuity in neighborhood environments across generations of family members, the authors argue for a revised perspective on “neighborhood effects” that considers the ways in which the neighborhood environment in one generation may have a lingering impact on the next generation. To analyze multigenerational effects, the authors use newly developed methods designed to estimate unbiased treatment effects when treatments and confounders vary over time. The results confirm a powerful link between neighborhoods and cognitive ability that extends across generations. A family's exposure to neighborhood poverty across two consecutive generations reduces child cognitive ability by more than half a standard deviation. A formal sensitivity analysis suggests that results are robust to unobserved selection bias.


Sharkey, Patrick and Robert J. Sampson. 2010. Destination Effects: Residential Mobility and Trajectories of Adolescent Violence in a Stratified Metropolis Criminology 48: 639-681
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Two landmark policy interventions to improve the lives of youth through neighborhood mobility—the Gautreaux program in Chicago and the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) experiments in five cities—have produced conflicting results and have created a puzzle with broad implications: Do residential moves between neighborhoods increase or decrease violence, or both? To address this question, we analyze data from a subsample of adolescents ages 9–12 years from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, a longitudinal study of children and their families that began in Chicago—the site of the original Gautreaux program and one of the MTO experiments. We propose a dynamic modeling strategy to separate the effects of residential moving across three waves of the study from dimensions of neighborhood change and metropolitan location. The results reveal countervailing effects of mobility on trajectories of violence; whereas neighborhood moves within Chicago lead to an increased risk of violence, moves outside the city reduce violent offending and exposure to violence. The gap in violence between movers within and outside Chicago is explained not only by the racial and economic composition of the destination neighborhoods but also by the quality of school contexts, adolescents' perceived control over their new environment, and fear. These findings highlight the need to simultaneously consider residential mobility, mechanisms of neighborhood change, and the wider geography of structural opportunity.

Sharkey, Patrick. 2010. The Acute Effect of Local Homicides on Children's Cognitive Performance Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(26):11733-11738
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This study estimates the acute effect of exposure to a local homicide on the cognitive performance of children across a community. Data are from a sample of children age 5–17 y in the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods. The effect of local homicides on vocabulary and reading assessments is identified by exploiting exogenous variation in the relative timing of homicides and interview assessments among children in the same neighborhood but assessed at different times. Among African-Americans, the strongest results show that exposure to a homicide in the block group that occurs less than a week before the assessment reduces performance on vocabulary and reading assessments by between ∼0.5 and ∼0.66 SD, respectively. Main results are replicated using a second independent dataset from Chicago. Findings suggest the need for broader recognition of the impact that extreme acts of violence have on children across a neighborhood, regardless of whether the violence is witnessed directly.


Sharkey, Patrick. 2009. Neighborhoods and the Black-White Mobility Gap Washington, D.C.: The Economic Mobility Project: An Initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts.
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Sampson, R.J. & Sharkey, P. 2008. Neighborhood Selection and the Social Reproduction of Concentrated Racial Inequality Demography, Feb 2008, Vol. 45 Issue 1, p1-29, 29p.

In this paper, we consider neighborhood selection as a social process central to the reproduction of racial inequality in neighborhood attainment. We formulate a multilevel model that decomposes multiple sources of stability and change in longitudinal trajectories of achieved neighborhood income among nearly 4,000 Chicago families followed for up to seven years wherever they moved in the United States. Even after we adjust for a comprehensive set of fixed and time-varying covariates, racial inequality in neighborhood attainment is replicated by movers and stayers alike. We also study the emergent consequences of mobility pathways for neighborhood-level structure. The temporal sorting by individuals of different racial and ethnic groups combines to yield a structural pattern of flows between neighborhoods that generates virtually nonoverlapping income distributions and little exchange between minority and white areas. Selection and racially shaped hierarchies are thus mutually constituted and account for an apparent equilibrium of neighborhood inequality.

Sharkey, P. 2008. The Intergenerational Transmission of Context American Journal of Sociology, Jan 2008, Vol. 113 Issue 4, p931-969, 39p.

This article draws on the extensive literature on economic and social mobility in America to examine intergenerational contextual mobility, defined as the degree to which inequalities in neighborhood environments persist across generations. PSID data are analyzed to reveal remarkable continuity in neighborhood economic status from one generation to the next. The primary consequence of persistent neighborhood stratification is that the racial inequality in America's neighborhoods that existed a generation ago has been transmitted, for the most part unchanged, to the current generation. More than 70% of black children who grow up in the poorest quarter of American neighborhoods remain in the poorest quarter of neighborhoods as adults, compared to 40% of whites. The results suggest that racial inequality in neighborhood economic status is substantially underestimated with short-term measures of neighborhood income or poverty and, second, that the steps taken to end racial discrimination in the housing and lending markets have not enabled black Americans to advance out of America's poorest neighborhoods.


Ratcliffe, C. & Nightingale, D.S. & Sharkey, P. 2007. Welfare Program Performance American Review of Public Administration, March, Vol. 37 Issue 1, p65-90, 26p.

Public agencies are increasingly expected to track their performance according to established criteria--to be held accountable for the expenditure of public funds and show that funds are being used to achieve intended outcomes. This analysis of South Carolina's Family Independence welfare program examines counties' performance on five employment-related outcomes: employment rate, employment entry rate, employment retention rate. earnings gain rate, and earned income closure rate. Counties' performance is statistically analyzed, adjusting for variation in external factors (e.g., labor market conditions and caseload characteristics) that influence program performance but that are outside the control of county program staff. This analysis shows that external factors influence employment-related performance, suggesting that states may want to vary counties' goals based on external factors, rather than expecting all counties to meet the same performance level. This analysis provides an example of how agencies can apply statistical analysis to measure, track, and analyze program performance.


Sharkey, P. 2006. Navigating Dangerous Streets: The Sources and Consequences of Street Efficacy American Sociological Review, Oct 2006, Vol. 71 Issue 5, p826-846, 21p.

The concept of street efficacy, defined as the perceived ability to avoid violent confrontations and to be safe in one's neighborhood, is proposed as a mechanism connecting aspects of adolescents' "imposed" environments to the choices they make in creating their own "selected" environments that minimize the potential for violent confrontations. Empirical models using data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods suggest that street efficacy is substantially influenced by various aspects of the social context surrounding adolescents. Adolescents who live in neighborhoods with concentrated disadvantage and low collective efficacy, respectively, are found to have less confidence in their ability to avoid violence after controlling for an extensive set of individual- and family-level factors. Exposure to violence also reduces street efficacy, although it does not explain the association between collective efficacy and individual street efficacy. Adolescents' confidence in their ability to avoid violence is shown to be an important predictor of the types of environments they select for themselves. In particular, adolescents with high levels of street efficacy are less likely to resort to violence themselves or to associate with delinquent peers.

In the Press

Neighborhood violence is hurting black kids’ test scores
Washington Post
The Urban Fire Next Time [Op-Ed]
The New York Times