Durable effects of concentrated disadvantage on verbal ability among African-American children

Robert J. Sampson, Patrick Sharkey, Stephen W. Raudenbush

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

438 Scopus citations


Disparities in verbal ability, a major predictor of later life outcomes, have generated widespread debate, but few studies have been able to isolate neighborhood-level causes in a developmentally and ecologically appropriate way. This study presents longitudinal evidence from a large-scale study of >2,000 children ages 6-12 living in Chicago, along with their caretakers, who were followed wherever they moved in the U.S. for up to 7 years. African-American children are exposed in such disproportionate numbers to concentrated disadvantage that white and Latino children cannot be reliably compared, calling into question traditional research strategies assuming common points of overlap in ecological risk. We therefore focus on trajectories of verbal ability among African-American children, extending recently developed counterfactual methods for time-varying causes and outcomes to adjust for a wide range of predictors of selection into and out of neighborhoods. The results indicate that living in a severely disadvantaged neighborhood reduces the later verbal ability of black children on average by ≈ 4 points, a magnitude that rivals missing a year or more of schooling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)845-852
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 22 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Cognitive ability
  • Neighborhood effects
  • Time-varying causal methods


Dive into the research topics of 'Durable effects of concentrated disadvantage on verbal ability among African-American children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this