Beth C. Weitzman
Affiliated Faculty, NYU Wagner; Professor of Public Health and Policy, NYU Steinhardt
Beth C. Weitzman is the former Vice Dean at NYU Steinhardt, where she is also Professor of Health and Public Policy. Prior to her joining the Steinhardt School in 2009, Dr. Weitzman spent more than 20 years on the faculty at NYU's Wagner Graduate School. There she taught classes in research methods and in community health and medical care.
Dr. Weitzman's research interests focus on urban policies affecting poor families and their children; she has evaluated a range of program aimed at meeting the health, social service, housing, and educational needs of these families. She conducted more than a decade of research on homeless families, beginning in the late 1980's, with funding from New York City's Human Resources Administration, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. More recently, Dr. Weitzman has been directing the national evaluation of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Urban Health Initiative. Dr. Weitzman brings to her research extensive experience in program evaluation and in primary data collection. Her work has been published in such journals as Youth and Society, the Journal of Adolescent Health, Health and Place, Public Administration Review, the Journal of Urban Health, and the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, and she serves on the editorial board of the American Journal of Evaluation.
Purpose. Explore the importance of residential mobility and use of services outside neighborhoods when interventions targeting low-income families are planned and implemented.
Design. Analysis of cross-sectional telephone household survey data on childhood mobility and school enrollment in four large distressed cities.
Setting. Baltimore, Maryland; Detroit, Michigan; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Richmond, Virginia.
Subjects. Total of 1723 teens aged 10 to 18 years and their parents.
Measures. Continuous self-report of the number of years parents lived in the neighborhood of residence and city; self-report of whether the child attends school in their neighborhood; and categorical self report of parents' marital status, mother's education, parent race, family income, child's age, and child's sex.
Analysis. Chi-square and multivariate logistic regression.
Results. In this sample, 85.2% of teens reported living in the city where they were born. However, only 44.4% of black teens lived in neighborhoods where they were born, compared with 59.2% of white teens. Although 50.3% of black teens attended schools outside of their current neighborhoods, only 31.4% of whites did. Residential mobility was more common among black than white children (odds ratio = 1.82; p < .001), and black teens had 43% lesser odds of attending school in their home communities.
Conclusions. Mobility among low-income and minority families challenges some assumptions of neighborhood interventions premised on years of exposure to enriched services and changes in the built environment.
Health care policymakers have cited transportation
barriers as key obstacles to providing health care to
low-income suburbanites, particularly because suburbs have
become home to a growing number of recent immigrants
who are less likely to own cars than their neighbors. In a
suburb of New York City,we conducted a pilot survey of low
income, largely immigrant clients in four public clinics, to
find out how much transportation difficulties limit their
access to primary care. Clients were receptive to the opportunity
to participate in the survey (response rate = 94%).
Nearly one-quarter reported having transportation problems
that had caused them to miss or reschedule a clinic
appointment in the past. Difficulties included limited and
unreliable local bus service, and a tenuous connection to a
car. Our pilot work suggests that this population is willing to
participate in a survey on this topic. Further, since even
among those attending clinic there was significant evidence
of past transportation problems, it suggests that a populationbased
survey would yield information about substantial
transportation barriers to health care.
Objectives. We compared cause-specific mortality and birth rates for children and youths aged younger than 18 years in 100 US cities from 1992 through 2002.
Methods. We used 5 census indicators to categorize the 100 most populous US cities in 1990 as economically distressed or nondistressed. We used Poisson regression to calculate rate ratios for cause-specific mortality and birth rates, comparing distressed cities to nondistressed cities overall and by race/ethnicity from 1992 through 2002. We also calculated rates of change in these variables within each city over this period.
Results. Despite improvements in health for the study population in all cities, disparities between city groups held steady or widened over the study period. Gaps in outcomes between Whites and Blacks persisted across all cities. Living in a distressed city compounded the disparities in poor outcomes for Black children and youths.
Conclusions. A strong national economy during the study period may have facilitated improvements in health outcomes for children and youths in US cities, but these benefits did not close gaps between distressed and nondistressed cities.
Although an increasing amount of community mental health research has investigated the deleterious effects of disasters and the targeting and efficacy of treatment in their aftermath, little research has sought to identify preexisting characteristics of the social environment that are predictive of post-disaster distress. A national US telephone survey fielded before and after September 11, 2001, was used to investigate the psychological distress among American adolescents related to the attacks, and to identify environmental and other characteristics that predisposed youth to experience higher or lower levels of post-disaster distress. The study found that widespread characteristics of children’s school environments—school disorder and physical threats—were at least as strongly associated with a proxy for psychological distress as exposure to the events of 9/11. Further, children exposed to physical threats at school appeared to be more vulnerable to the psychological effects of disasters than children in safer school environments.
This article uses the Advocacy Coalition Framework to identify the stakeholders and their coalitions in the arena of after-school policy, which drew much new attention beginning in the early 1990s in many American cities. Using evidence from case studies in five cities, we show how the framework can be extended beyond stakeholder analysis to include identification of core and secondary value conflicts and of opportunities for policy analysis to help strengthen coalitions and pressures for change. Coalitions in each of the cities differ over core values relating to the purposes of after-school programs (academics versus “fun”), but policy analysts can promote common goals by developing options to deal with the secondary conflicts over the relative importance of facilities versus program content, the modes of collaboration between public schools and community based organizations, and the incentives for public school teachers to engage in staffing after-school programs.
This article uses the Advocacy Coalition Framework to identify the stakeholders and their coalitions in the arena of after-school policy, which drew much new attention beginning in the early 1990s in many American cities. Using evidence from case studies in five cities, we show how the framework can be extended beyond stakeholder analysis to include identification of core and secondary value conflicts and of opportunities for policy analysis to help strengthen coalitions and pressures for change. Coalitions in each of the cities differ over core values relating to the purposes of after-school programs (academics versus "fun"), but policy analysts can promote common goals by developing options to deal with the secondary conflicts over the relative importance of facilities versus program content, the modes of collaboration between public schools and community based organizations, and the incentives for public school teachers to engage in staffing after-school programs.
This study investigates the degree to which the racial composition of the school environment may influence the body mass index (BMI) of children aged 10 to 18 years. This research may be viewed as extending prior work that has found that the prevalence of risk behaviors among nonwhite adolescents is influenced by exposure to white adolescents.
This research used data from the Survey of Adults and Youth, which was conducted as part of the evaluation of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Urban Health Initiative. The study population for this analysis is comprised of parent and child respondents in the 2004 to 2005 survey wave who lived in one of the five program cities: Baltimore, Detroit, Oakland, Philadelphia, and Richmond. We constructed two-level school random effects models and added school and census tract-level variables that describe the racial composition of the residential community and the school attended.
Black and Hispanic adolescent girls who attend schools with a mostly nonwhite student body have higher BMIs than do their white counterparts. However, black girls in predominately white schools do not have higher BMIs than white girls. Further, black and Hispanic girls whose schoolmates are predominately white have significantly lower BMIs than black and Hispanic girls in schools where fewer than half the students are white. These associations are not found among boys, and are net of a broad variety of individual, household, and group level characteristics.
Our findings suggest that the BMI of minority adolescent girls is influenced by the norms of the social environment.
This article uses the evaluation of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) Urban Health Initiative (UHI), a 10-year effort to improve health and safety outcomes in distressed cities, to demonstrate the strength of an evaluation design that integrates theory of change and quasiexperimental approaches, including the use of comparison cities. This paper focuses on the later stages of implementation and, especially, our methods for estimating program impacts. While the theory of change was used to make preliminary identification of intended outcomes, we used the sites’ plans and early implementation to refine this list and revisit our strategy for estimating impacts. Using our integrated design, differences between program and comparison cities are considered impacts only if they were predicted by program theory, local plans for action, and early implementation. We find small, measurable changes in areas of greatest programmatic effort. We discuss the importance of the integrated design in identifying impacts.
We find that estimates of the prevalence of teenage smoking and drinking in “urban,” “suburban,” and “rural” areas vary with different definitions of these types of geographic units. Given the salience of youth risk behavior to the public debate, we urge researchers to purposefully choose their definitions of geographic areas and to be explicit about those choices.
This article describes the nature and utility of fiscal analysis in evaluating complex community interventions. Using New York University's evaluation of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Urban Health Initiative as an example, the authors describe issues arising in defining and operationalizing constructs for fiscal analysis. The approach's utility is demonstrated in the use of interim findings to help redefine the program's goals for resource allocation, to modify its theory of change to include greater emphasis on state-level action, and to emphasize the importance of local public schools as resource centers and intervention targets. The fiscal analysis also provides new insights into the limitations of "preventive" versus "corrective" spending categories and helps make goals for such functional reallocation more realistic. The authors discuss limitations of fiscal analysis due to available data quality, the extent of cooperation needed from public officials to collect relevant data, and the level of expertise needed to interpret the data.
At any given moment, about 3 million American women, men, and children are homeless. And another 5 million Americans spend over 50% of their incomes on housing, meaning that one missed paycheck, one health crisis, or one unpaid utility bill can push them out the door into homelessness. Homelessness is one of the major social problems and personal and family tragedies of the contemporary world. No community, city, or nation is immune and the lack of affordable housing and a decline in secure, well-paying jobs means that the problem will only get worse. The Encyclopedia of Homelessness is the first systematic effort to organize and summarize what we know about this complex topic that impacts not only the homeless but all of society. The Encyclopedia focuses on the current situation in the United States with a comparative sampling of homelessness around the world.
Purpose: To compare and contrast perceptions of community leaders, adults, and youth about the extent of the teen pregnancy problem in five American cities: Baltimore, Detroit, Oakland, Philadelphia, and Richmond.
Conclusions: Although few leaders see teen pregnancy as a pressing problem, adults remain deeply concerned, and youth indicate that the problem is prevalent and accepted.
This paper examines public spending on children between 1997 and 2000 in five localities: Baltimore, Detroit, Oakland, Philadelphia, and Richmond. These cities participate in the Urban Health Initiative (UHI), a ten-year Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program aimed at improving health and safety for young people in these cities. The Center for Health and Public Service Research at New York University is evaluating the program. The evaluation seeks to determine whether collaborative efforts of interested organizations can develop and implement plans to change service delivery systems for children, and whether such changes result in better outcomes for children. A group of ten additional cities serves as a comparative benchmark.
To overcome some of the limitations of experimental and quasi-experimental designs, evaluators have employed a
"theory of change" (TOC) approach to evaluate comprehensive community initiatives (CCIs). This approach helps identify underlying assumptions, focuses on processes and systems within communities, clarifies desired outcomes, and embraces the complexity of comprehensive interventions. Yet some researchers question the adequacy of TOC to address rival hypotheses to explain findings.
Objectives. This investigation examined the effectiveness of intensive efforts to include frequently absent students in order to reduce bias in classroom-based studies.
Methods. Grade 10 students in 13 New York City high schools (n = 2049) completed self administered confidential surveys in 4 different phases: a 1-day classroom capture, a 1-day follow-up, and 2 separate 1-week follow-ups. Financial incentives were offered, along with opportunities for out-of-classroom participation.
Results. Findings showed that frequently absent students engaged in more risk behaviors than those who were rarely absent. Intensive efforts to locate and survey chronically absent students did not, however, significantly alter estimates of risk behavior. Weighting the data for individual absences marginally improved the estimates.
Conclusions. This study showed that intensive efforts to capture absent students in classroom-based investigations are not warranted by the small improvements produced in regard to risk behavior estimates.
This paper describes how we strengthened the theory of change approach to evaluating a complex social initiative by integrating it with a quasi-experimental, comparison group design. We also demonstrate the plausibility of selecting a credible comparison group through the use of cluster analysis, and describe our work in validating that analysis with additional measures. The integrated evaluation design relies on two points of comparison: (1) program theory to program experience; and (2) program cities to comparison cities. We describe how we are using this integrated design to evaluate the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Urban Health Initiative, an effort that aims to improve health and safety outcomes for children and youth in five distressed urban areas through a process of citywide, multi-sector planning and changed public and private systems. We also discuss how the use of two research frameworks and multiple methods can enrich our ability to test underlying assumptions and evaluate overall program effects. Using this integrated approach has provided evidence that the earliest phases of this initiative are unfolding as the theory would predict, and that the comparison cities are not undergoing a similar experience to those in UHI. Despite many remaining limitations, this integrated evaluation can provide greater confidence in assessing whether future changes in health and safety outcomes may have resulted from the Urban Health Initiative (UHI).
This study examined predictors of entry onto shelter and subsequent housing stability for a cohort of families receiving public assistance in New York City. Methods. Interviews were conducted with 266 families as they requested shelter and with a comparison sample of 298 families selected at random from the welfare caseload. Respondents were reinterviewed 5 years later. Families with prior history of shelter use were excluded from the follow-up study. Results. Demographic characteristics and housing conditions were the most important risk factors for shelter entry; enduring poverty and disruptive social experiences also contributed. Five years later, four fifths of sheltered families had their own apartment. Receipt of subsidized housing was the primary predictor of housing stability among formerly homeless families (odd ratio [OR] = 20.6, 95% confidence interval [CI]= 9.9, 42.9). Conclusions. Housing subsidies are critical to ending homelessness among families.
OBJECTIVES. Relatively few hospitals in the United States offer high-technology cardiac services (cardiac catheterization, bypass surgery, or angioplasty). This study examined the association between race and admission to a hospital offering those services. METHODS. Records of 11,410 patients admitted with acute myocardial infarction to hospitals in New York State in 1986 were analyzed. RESULTS. Approximately one third of both White and Black patients presented to hospitals offering high-technology cardiac services. However, in a multivariate model adjusting for home-to-hospital distance, the White-to-Black odds ratio for likelihood of presentation to such a hospital was 1.68 (95% confidence interval = 1.42, 1.98). This discrepancy between the observed and "distance-adjusted" probabilities reflected three phenomena: (1) patients presented to nearby hospitals; (2) Blacks were more likely to live near high-technology hospitals; and (3) there were racial differences in travel patterns. For example, when the nearest hospitals did not include a high-technology hospital, Whites were more likely than Blacks to travel beyond those nearest hospitals to a high-technology hospital. CONCLUSIONS. Whites and Blacks present equally to hospitals offering high-technology cardiac services at the time of acute myocardial infarction. However, there are important underlying racial differences in geographic proximity and tendencies to travel to those hospitals.
Telephone-survey data were gathered from parents and youth in five of
America’s largest and most distressed cities to estimate unmet demand for
after-school programs. Unmet demand was conceptualized as a function of low utilization and dissatisfaction with one’s current arrangement; furthermore, the authors argue that dissatisfaction must stem from something that can be addressed through changes in policy or programs. Large numbers of parents of children who infrequently use after-school programs were found to indicate that they would increase utilization if there were improvements in the quality, access, or types of programming. However, large numbers of parents whose children do not participate or participate infrequently in after-school programs were also found to express satisfaction with their arrangement and indicated that they do not wish to change it. Expanding services with the assumption that children from these families will participate may be misguided.
To analyze long-term consequences of homelessness, the authors compared 388 formerly homeless children 55 months after shelter entry with 382 housed peers, birth to 17, using mother- and child-reported health, mental health, community involvement, cognitive performance, and educational records. Both groups scored below cognitive and achievement norms. Small group differences favored housed 4- to 6-year-olds on cognition and 4- to 10-year-olds on mental health only. Child care and recent stressful events, which were high, were as or more important than prior homelessness. Only children living with mothers were included, potentially biasing results. Policy implications are discussed.