Neighborhood & School Contextual Effects

Is Gentrification a Carcinogen? Neighborhood Change and Cancerous Vehicle Emissions in Los Angeles County

Currently under review at Housing Policy Debate after being invited for special issue on gentrification, housing, and health. Working paper available upon request.

Neighborhood disadvantage erodes residents’ mental and physical health. But whether rapid reductions in disadvantage spurred by gentrification attenuate or exacerbate these effects remains unknown due to mixed theoretical expectations and empirical results. To help clarify these dynamics, I propose a novel theoretical account that casts gentrification as a carcinogen. As neighborhoods receive inflows of richer and whiter residents, influxes of private vehicles may come with them. In turn, residents become exposed to higher vehicular emissions, and their cancer risk climbs. To assess these possibilities, I link Urban Displacement Project data identifying Los Angeles County neighborhoods that gentrified during the 2000s to tract-level data on vehicle ownership and residents’ cancer risk– the latter from EPA’s National Air Toxics Assessment. First-difference models suggest gentrifying tracts’ cancer risk increased by ~0.5 standard deviations more than disadvantaged neighborhoods that did not gentrify. Nearly half of this effect may be explained by increasing vehicle density.

Keywords: gentrification, segregation, health disparities, carcinogens, transportation

Sociodemographic Gaps in School Readiness: Race, Class, and Disparities in Exposure to Neurotoxic Lead during Early Childhood

w/ Geoffrey T. Wodtke; working paper available upon request.

Race- and class-based gaps in academic achievement remain stubbornly large among American children, despite decades of K-12 educational reforms aimed at mitigating them. Recent studies suggest that these reforms may be targeted too late in the course of child development, as large disparities in academic skills are already firmly entrenched before elementary school even begins. Building upon research linking residential segregation, environmental health hazards, and early childhood development, we investigate whether race- and class-based disparities in school readiness are due to differences in exposure to neurotoxic lead, which often contaminates poor, racially isolated neighborhoods. To this end, we link longitudinal survey data from 1,266 children born in Chicago to ecological measures of lead contamination from the city’s department of public health. Using these data, we integrate methods of causal inference with supervised machine learning to estimate the extent to which residential lead contamination is responsible for class and racial gaps in vocabulary skills and attention problems at the time of school entry. Our results show that disparities in lead exposure are closely linked with sociodemographic gaps in school readiness, and they suggest that environmental interventions during infancy, in particular, may be important for remediating them.

School Effects Revisited: The Size, Stability, and Persistence of Middle Schools’ Effects on Academic Outcomes

Lloyd, Tracey and Jared N. Schachner. 2021. "School Effects Revisited: The Size, Stability, and Persistence of Middle Schools’ Effects on Academic Outcomes." American Educational Research Journal 58(4) 748-784.

Since the early 2000s, educational evaluation research has primarily centered on teachers’, rather than schools’, contributions to students’ academic outcomes due to concerns that estimates of the latter were smaller, less stable, and more prone to measurement error. We argue that this disparity should be reduced. Using administrative data from three cohorts of Massachusetts public school students (N = 123,261) and two-level models, we estimate middle schools’ value-added effects on eighth-grade and 10th-grade math scores and, importantly, a non–test score outcome: 4-year college enrollment. Comparing our results to teacher-centered studies, we find that school effects (encompassing both teaching- and nonteaching-related factors) are initially smaller but nearly as stable and perhaps more persistent than are individual teacher effects. Our study motivates future research estimating the long-term effects of both teachers and schools on a wide range of outcomes.

Keywords: cognitive skills, middle schools, school accountability, school effects, value-added models