How Residential Mobility and School Choice Challenge Assumptions of Neighborhood Place-Based Interventions

Silver D, Holleman M, Mijanovich T, and BC Weitzman.
American Journal of Health Promotion, 26(3): 180-183

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.

Wagner Faculty