Neighborhoods and Schools as Competing and Reinforcing Contexts for Educational Attainment
Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the author analyzes how school and neighborhood contexts are jointly related to high school and college graduation.
Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation:
Sociology of Education
Vol. 83, No. 4, pp. 287-311
- For high school graduation and earning a BA, students in higher grades and those who are younger within those grades (i.e., those who have not been held back) are more likely to graduate, as are female students.
- Students whose parents have higher educational attainment, who are not on public assistance, who have higher educational expectations, who have higher cognitive ability, and who have lived longer at their current residences are more likely to graduate from both high school and college.
- Students who perceive their parents to have higher expectations for their future are more likely to graduate from high school, but parental expectations do not significantly predict earning a BA.
- Family income positively and significantly predicts earning a BA but does not predict graduating from high school, controlling for other family background characteristics.
- Asian American students are more likely than Whites to graduate from college, but otherwise a student’s race is not a statistically significant predictor of educational attainment, holding other characteristics constant.
- Neighborhood SES is positively associated with educational attainment.
- Models including individual-level control variables and the neighborhood SES indices show that neighborhood concentrated disadvantage is a significant and negative predictor, while neighborhood educational and occupational attainment does not predict high school graduation. However, including an interaction between neighborhood SES index and student’s grade reveals that neighborhood educational and occupational attainment may matter for students in the lowest grades.
- For college graduation, only the index measuring neighborhood educational and occupational attainment is a significant and positive predictor when individual-level characteristics are controlled.
- Results suggest that relative neighborhood position matters for high school graduation but not for earning a BA.
- School Characteristics:
- Neither classmates’ SES and expectations nor school racial composition significantly predicts one’s likelihood of graduating from high school. However, for earning a BA, school peers’ SES and expectations is a significant and positive predictor.
- Consistent with past literature, attending school with peers with higher expectations and higher-SES backgrounds increases one’s educational attainment, holding individual traits constant.
- School SES and expectations positively predict earning a BA, controlling for neighborhood SES.
- Once either dimension of neighborhood SES is controlled, the coefficient for school race is significant (or borderline significant) and negative, suggesting that attending high school with more Black students (a lower score on the race index) is positively associated with earning a BA.
- The interactions between neighborhood and school SES indicate that attending school with more White peers or those with higher SES or expectations can be disadvantageous for students from lower-SES neighborhoods.
Journal Article Empirical Research
Family, Graduation Rates, Neighborhood, Outcomes, Racial Composition, SES, SES Composition
Secondary Survey Data
Method of Analysis:
Unit of Analysis:
Neighborhood, School, Student
- Uses data from National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health
- Analyzes family background, school, and neighborhood data from Wave I (1994-1995) and educational outcome variables from Wave III (collected in 2000-2001 when respondents were ages 18 to 26)
- Excludes data from the 52 "feeder" middle schools
- Final sample consists of 11,097 students from 77 high schools and 1,709 census tracts
- DV: Educational attainment (measured as having a high school diploma, and college degree level)
- IV: Student characteristics; gender, race, ethnicity, family public assistance status, age, grade, score on an abridged version of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, parents’ educational attainment, family income, parents’ educational expectations, students’ educational expectations, number of years at same residence; Neighborhood characteristics: proportion of residents 25 years and older without a high school diploma, proportion of residents 25 and older with a BA degree, proportion of families headed by single female, proportion of children living in poverty, median household income, proportion of residents holding professional or managerial job, unemployment rate, proportion Black, proportion White; School characteristics: proportion White, proportion Black, average college expectations, average earning expectations, average parent education, proportion of students living with two parents