Neighborhood & School Sorting Processes

The Nativity Achievement Gap and Immigrants’ School Choice Disadvantage

Working paper available upon request.

The children of immigrants constitute a large and growing share of American youth, yet research on the size and sources of nativity-based educational achievement gaps pales in comparison to that on race- and class-based gaps. Relevant studies that do exist attribute large nativity gaps to (a) out-of-school factors, such as immigrant families’ lower levels of human, social, and cultural capital or (b) their relegation to structurally disadvantaged, under-resourced schools. In this study, I link these two accounts, arguing that immigrants’ children disproportionately attend disadvantaged, local neighborhood schools because their families often lack key forms of capital that have become crucial to the contemporary school enrollment process. Concretely, I propose that immigrant families are less likely to enroll their children in highly-coveted– and potentially high-quality– schools of choice (e.g., magnets, charters, and private) than are non-immigrant families due to disparities in human, social, cultural, and linguistic capital, and these disparities have important implications for children’s achievement outcomes. Logistic regressions using Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey linked to administrative and geospatial data, reinforce these hypotheses. Children of immigrants are 15 percentage points less like to be enrolled in a school of choice – a gap that is largely driven by Latino immigrant parents who lack English fluency and that partially accounts for Latino immigrants’ children scoring lower on reading tests. I conclude that contemporary choice-based policies may have important unintended consequences for immigrant assimilation: by stratifying children’s access to high-quality schools on the basis of their parents’ language skills.

Urban Income Inequality and the Great Recession in Sunbelt Form: Disentangling Individual and Neighborhood-Level Change in Los Angeles

Sampson, Robert J. Jared N. Schachner, Robert D. Mare. 2017. "Urban Income Inequality and the Great Recession in Sunbelt Form: Disentangling Individual and Neighborhood-Level Change in Los Angeles." RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 3(2): 102-128,

New social transformations within and beyond the cities of classic urban studies challenge prevailing accounts of spatial inequality. This paper pivots from the Rust Belt to the Sunbelt accordingly, disentangling persistence and change in neighborhood median income and concentrated income extremes in Los Angeles County. We first examine patterns of change over two decades starting in 1990 for all Los Angeles neighborhoods. We then analyze an original longitudinal study of approximately six hundred Angelenos from 2000 to 2013, assessing the degree to which contextual changes in neighborhood income arise from neighborhood-level mobility or individual residential mobility. Overall we find deep and persistent inequality among both neighborhoods and individuals. Contrary to prior research, we also find that residential mobility does not materially alter neighborhood economic conditions for most race, ethnic, and income groups. Our analyses lay the groundwork for a multilevel theoretical framework capable of explaining spatial inequality across cities and historical eras.

Keywords: income inequality, neighborhoods, residential mobility, Los Angeles