In basic research on neighborhoods and their effects, CCPR researchers take advantage of our location in Los Angeles, a unique laboratory for studying a diverse, dynamic population spread over a large geographic expanse. Pioneering work on the effects of neighborhood socioeconomic status by Carol Aneshensel and Dawn Upchurch examined its effects on adolescent risk taking behavior and mental health in Los Angeles. Subsequently, Anne Pebley, Narayan Sastry (Michigan), and other CCPR and RAND researchers designed the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey (L.A.FANS). The first wave was completed in 2000-2001 and the second in 2006-2008. L.A. FANS is designed to study the effects of neighborhood and family physical and social environments on the welfare of adults and children. Its innovative design follows a representative sample of neighborhoods as well as samples of adults and children moving into and out of these neighborhoods over time. This design also enables researchers to investigate residential choice at the individual level and neighborhood transition.
Robert Mare and former CCPR student affiliate Margot Jackson (Brown) considered the effects of residential mobility and neighborhood change during childhood on the conclusions drawn by previous research on “neighborhood effects” on children’s behavioral, cognitive, and health-related well-being. Their results, based on L.A.FANS-1 and the PSID-CDS, show that residential mobility does expose children to neighborhoods of different economic types. However, estimates of neighborhood effects that allow neighborhood characteristics to vary through residential mobility and neighborhood change do not depict a strikingly different picture from cross-sectional estimates.
The physical environment in local areas and neighborhoods can also be favorable or detrimental for health. Sarah Reber and Seema Jayachandran (Northwestern) are using California forest fires to assess the effects of air pollution on a variety of adult and child health outcomes. Air pollution from forest fires is similar in composition to air pollution from industrial sources. The concentration of pollution from fires in time and space permits separation of the effects of air pollution from other factors that influence health. For example, lower-income individuals are more likely to live in more polluted areas and are also unhealthier for other reasons. The results of the study will provide fresh evidence from a different perspective on the potential consequences of air pollution.