Neighborhood Poverty, Social Capital, and the Cognitive Development of African American Preschoolers

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In this investigation, we examine the impact of the ecological context of the residential neighborhood on the cognitive development of children by considering social processes not only at the family-level but also at the neighborhood-level. In a socioeconomically diverse sample of 200 African American children living in 39 neighborhoods in Baltimore, we found that neighborhood poverty was associated with poorer problem-solving skills over and above the influence of family economic resources and level of positive parent involvement. Sampson has theorized that neighborhood poverty affects child well-being by altering levels of neighborhood social capital as well as family social capital. Although we found that indicators of neighborhood and family social capital were associated with cognitive skills, these factors did not explain the association between neighborhood poverty and problem-solving ability. Implications for future research in the area of neighborhoods and child development are discussed.

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