Background Influence

Neighborhood poverty

Parent construct: Poverty

Families face special challenges when they live in neighborhoods with a great deal of poverty, a high proportion of single-parent families, racial segregation, and families frequently moving in and out of the neighborhood. Such neighborhoods have higher levels of child abuse, infant mortality, school dropout, crime, delinquency, and mental illness.1,2,3

Researchers who have studied these neighborhoods find that high poverty and frequent moving make it harder for people to get to know and trust one another. Neighbors can find it harder to support each other, monitor each other’s children, and guide their young people in consistent ways.3

Imagine that you have just moved into a neighborhood where you don’t know anyone and where there is a lot of crime. You will find it harder to know who to trust and will be less likely to call on your neighbors to watch your kids or to “watch your back.” And, you will have fewer friendly encounters that make our days go better.

The situation is not hopeless, however. There are ways to increase trust and develop shared norms among neighbors about how they want to guide their children toward success.

Related Interventions




  1. Gephart, M. (1997). Neighborhoods and communities as contexts for development. In J. Brooks-Gunn, G.J. Duncan, & J.L. Aber (Eds.). Neighborhood poverty, Volume I: Contexts and consequences for children. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.  

  2. Leventhal, T., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2004). A randomized study of neighborhood effects on low-income children's educational outcomes. Developmental Pyschology, 40(4), 488-507.  

  3. Sampson, R.J., Morenoff, J.D., & Gannon-Rowley, T. (2002). Assessing "neighborhood effects": Social processes and new directions in research. Annual Review of Sociology, 28, 443-478.