The effects of neighborhood violence can seep into schools and lead to lower grades, even among students who have no direct exposure to the violence, a new study reveals.
For the study, researchers analyzed data from students who attended Chicago public schools between 2002 and 2010. The researchers found that in schools where large numbers of students came from violent neighborhoods, classmates from safer neighborhoods scored as much as 10 percent lower on annual standardized math and reading tests.
The findings highlight how neighborhood violence and school choice programs can combine to spread “collateral damage,” according to the Johns Hopkins University researchers.
“Exposure to neighborhood violence has a much bigger impact than we think it does,” study lead author and sociologist Julia Burdick-Will said in a university news release. “It can affect an entire school and how it’s able to function.”
Chicago allows students to attend school anywhere in the city, so many students commute to schools across town, and students from nearly every neighborhood attend nearly every school, the study authors explained.
This means that students from violent neighborhoods can carry their experiences to schools across the city.
Baltimore, Houston, Miami, Philadelphia and St. Louis have similar crime rates to Chicago, and it’s possible that schools in those cities have similar issues, according to Burdick-Will.
“Dealing with urban violence has ripple effects we’re only starting to understand,” she said. “We can’t think about violence as something happening to kids in an isolated part of the city where I don’t live. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. High crime rates may be concentrated in specific areas, but their effects can be felt in schools all over the city.”
The study was published June 12 in the journal Sociology of Education.
Child Trends has more on children’s exposure to violence.