Coffee Hour: Escaping the Long Arm of Poverty: Extended Geographies of Child Victimization and Violence Exposures

Friday, February 19, 2016 - 3:30pm
Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m. The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.

urban youth

About the talk

Neighborhood poverty has long been viewed as an important predictor of children’s exposures to violence and victimization. A growing body of evidence from ecological studies indicates that crime and violence are affected not just by a neighborhood’s poverty level but also the poverty level in nearby areas. However, such evidence has not been systematically integrated in the neighborhood effects and victimization literature, where neighborhoods remain assumed to predominantly function as isolated islands having no interaction with surrounding areas. The current study turns this assumption into an empirical question and explores the importance of exposure to an extended geography of poverty that encompasses not only the residential neighborhood but also the surrounding or nearby areas. We examine longitudinal data on over 4,400 low-income children, ages 8 through 19, whose families lived at baseline in extremely poor neighborhoods (over 40 percent poverty rate) and participated in the Moving to Opportunity randomized intervention in five cities. The results suggest that surrounding area poverty may matter more than residential neighborhood poverty for child victimization. Living further away from an area of extreme poverty also seems to act as a buffer against victimization. Moreover, a larger distance to extreme poverty amplifies the benefits of moving to an extended area where both residential and nearby neighborhoods lack extreme poverty. Differences by age and gender are discussed. The findings suggest that neighborhood and housing interventions would minimize low-income children’ victimization and violence exposures more when extending the geographic lens to reduce poverty exposures beyond the residential neighborhoods.

About the speaker

Corina GraifCorina Graif is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology and a Research Associate at the Population Research Institute at at Penn State. She received a Ph.D. in Sociology from Harvard University and was a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She studies the spatial stratification, mobility, and neighborhood effects on health risk and crime. Her work investigates the consequences of neighborhood poverty and population diversity on crime and on the dynamics of personal and community social capital in multi-ethnic and multi-racial urban US contexts. In her current projects, Graif integrates sociological and criminological theories in investigating the effects of extended neighborhood poverty on youth delinquency, violence, and risk exposures. Graif's projects deal with conceptual and methodological aspects related to measuring neighborhood effects at different geographic scales and in different spatial and network contexts. Graif's work is published in Criminology, City and Community, Population and Environment, American Journal of Epidemiology, Social Psychology Quarterly, American Behavioral Scientist, and Homicide Studies among others. Her projects have been awarded Harvard's H. T. Fischer Prize for Excellence in GIS and recognized by the ASA Sections on Community and Urban Sociology and on Children and Youth. She received research grants from the National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Institute at Penn State, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Suggested reading

  • Graif, Corina. 2015. “(Un)natural Disaster: Vulnerability, Long-Distance Displacement, and the Extended Geography of Neighborhood Distress and Attainment after Katrina" Population and Environment. 8:1-31.
  • Graif, Corina. 2015 " Delinquency and Gender Moderation in the Moving to Opportunity Intervention: The Role of Extended Neighborhoods." Criminology. 53(3): 366–398.
  • Graif, Corina, Andrew S. Gladfelter, and Stephen A. Matthews. 2014. "Urban Poverty and Neighborhood Effects on Crime: Incorporating Spatial and Network Perspectives". Sociology Compass 8: 1140–1155.        

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Coffee Hour