There is a strong belief that living in deprived neighbourhoods has an additional negative effect on residents’ life chances over and above the effect of their individual characteristics: so-called neighbourhood effects. Since the publication of the book “The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass and Public Policy” (Wilson 1987) the body of literature on neighbourhood effects has been growing. Theoretical explanations of neighbourhood effects include role model effects and peer group influences, social and physical disconnection from job-finding networks, a culture of poverty leading to dysfunctional values, discrimination by employers and other gatekeepers, access to low-quality public services, and exposure to criminal behaviour (Galster 2012). Despite the apparent consensus that neighbourhood effects exist and that deconcentrating poverty can help solve some of the problems, there is a growing body of critical literature which questions the evidence base and the derived urban, neighbourhood and housing policies. This literature suggests that selection and not causality is behind most of the current neighbourhood effects ‘evidence’ (see van Ham & Manley 2010). According to Cheshire (2007 p2) “there is surprisingly little evidence that living in poor neighbourhoods makes people poorer and erodes their life chances, independently of those factors that contribute to their poverty in the first place”. The critical literature argues that most existing studies only show correlations between neighbourhood characteristics and individual outcomes, which are caused by selection effects, and are no real causal neighbourhood effects. Durlauf (2004) reports that even the gold standard quasi-experimental studies such as Moving to Opportunity program (Goering et al. 2002) find little impact of neighbourhood characteristics on adults’ outcomes.

Research objectives
The objective of DEPRIVEDHOODS is to develop a better understanding of the relationship between socio-economic inequality, poverty and neighbourhoods. A recent paper by van Ham & Manley (2012) has set out an ambitious research agenda, based on which 7 detailed research objectives for DEPRIVEDHOODS have been formulated.

  1. To develop a holistic theoretical framework which incorporates neighbourhood change, neighbourhood sorting, neighbourhood choice and neighbourhood effects within one overall framework.
  2. To operationalize neighbourhoods better and to develop and use alternative bespoke neighbourhood geographies to demonstrate the (in)stability of results depending on the way in which neighbourhoods are defined and the scale at which neighbourhood contexts are studied.
  3. To advance our understanding of neighbourhood change (changing spatial concentrations of disadvantage & poverty) by analysing neighbourhoods in cities in the four research countries over longer periods of time, and to investigate the drivers of change (inflow, outflow, in-situ change).
  4. To understand individual (household) neighbourhood choice, and individual neighbourhood histories over longer periods of time, including the relationships between parental neighbourhood characteristics and the neighbourhood choices of their children as adults.
  5. To incorporate neighbourhood choice and neighbourhood histories explicitly in models of neighbourhood effects.
  6. To analyse the effects of other spatial contexts, such as workplaces on individual outcomes, together with characteristics of residential neighbourhoods and neighbourhood histories.
  7. To use the outcomes of DEPRIVEDHOODS to critically reflect on the effectiveness of area-based policies designed to tackle poverty and inequality in cities.

Unique geo-coded longitudinal data, which allows researchers to follow individuals over longer periods of time, from four countries will be used: The Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom and Estonia. These countries represent different types of welfare systems, and comparing the research outcomes will be challenging, but will enrich our understanding of the general applicability of the neighbourhood effects hypothesis.

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