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Kids in Poor Neighborhoods Fall Behind in School
Date:12/21/2007

Study finds they lose about 4 points on IQ tests compared to better-off peers

FRIDAY, Dec. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Black children living in disadvantaged neighborhoods fall behind the equivalent of one year or more of schooling simply because of where they live.

"[The study] does speak to the power of external resources," said Richard Gilman, coordinator of psychology and special education in the division of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital in Ohio. "It focuses on race as a characteristic, but it's not necessarily race. It's what's going on in families and external to families. . . the characteristics [of neighborhoods they identify] are going to be disproportional to African-American families because of the state of affairs for those families. They are the type of families living primarily in the inner cities."

Gilman was not involved with the study, which is published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A person's cognitive ability, which is mainly shaped early in life, can predict how well he or she will do later in life in terms of education, employment, whether or not they enter the criminal justice system and health.

But experts differ in whether genetics or environment are the primary shapers. And the role of the neighborhood has not been extensively studied.

For this study, sociologists at Harvard University analyzed Chicago census tract data from 1990 and 2000 and identified six neighborhood characteristics which, together, formed "concentrated disadvantage" and were linked to the cognitive abilities of children.

The six characteristics were: welfare receipt, poverty, unemployment, female-headed households, racial composition and density of children.

More than 2,000 urban Chicago children aged 6 to 12 were assessed for verbal ability and other characteristics.

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