Interpreting community effects on youth educational attainment

Scott J. South, Eric P. Baumer, Amy Lutz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Longitudinal data from 1,128 respondents in the National Survey of Children are used to examine factors that help explain the higher rates of school dropout and lower rates of high school graduation in socioeconomically distressed communities. The authors find that approximately one third of the observed positive effect of community socioeconomic disadvantage on high school discontinuation can be explained by the educational behaviors of peers, a result broadly consistent with epidemic models of neighborhood effects. A smaller proportion of the impact of neighborhood socioeconomic status on youth educational attainment can be attributed to youth's lower educational aspirations and higher rates of residential mobility in poor neighborhoods. Despite their centrality to theories of neighborhood effects, adolescents' delinquent behavior, attachment to school and parents, and parental control over adolescent behavior do little to mediate the impact of community disadvantage on high school dropout and graduation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-36
Number of pages34
JournalYouth and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Community
  • Education
  • Peers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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