A neighborhood strewn with trash and lined with vacant homes is much more than an eyesore. It is an indicator that the children who live there may never reach their potential.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health studied data on thousands of children, starting at birth, for more than 10 years. They asked parents living in East Baltimore to rate the perceived quality of their neighborhood for raising children on a five point scale ranging from poor to excellent. The parents who rated their neighborhood “poor” lived among abandoned houses, litter including discarded drug paraphernalia, and were noisy. The researchers found that children growing up in these neighborhoods are more likely as teens to display problem behaviors like fighting, stealing, vandalism, or disobeying rules than children living in the “excellent” neighborhoods.
So why not just move to a different, cleaner, safer neighborhood? The cost of housing, proximity to jobs, and lack of affordable child care can make that move impossible. Deep ties to family, community, and religious institutions make leaving a neighborhood difficult, if not unimaginable. But when we invest in the success of all families, regardless of geography, we can change the future for children right where they are.