Scholars Link Urban Neighborhood Conditions to Academic Achievement


A number of abandoned or decaying homes in Boston

In recent years, a number of scholars, theorists and professors have begun to acknowledge the link between urban neighborhoods and academic achievement. Understanding this link is important because research suggests that students who live and go school in urban neighborhoods are more likely to receive poor grades, less likely to graduate and more likely to end living in poverty (Jenks & Meyer, 1990).  In this same vein, studies clearly indicate that people who live in poor inner-city neighborhoods are more likely to find themselves trapped in generational poverty in part because the education they received did not adequately prepare them for ever changing job market (Wilson, 1996; Sharkey, 2013; Anyon, 2006).  The bottom line is that neighborhoods matter and it is a mistake to overlook the role that communities can play in student outcomes.

Despite research that clearly links education and place, some policy makers are seeking to implement a host of widely ineffective interventions. Individuals in this camp posit that student performance will increase if we just hold teachers accountable, set high academic standards, increase the length of the school day or focus or improving curriculum. While educational reform is certainly needed these reforms amount to little more than shifting the deck chairs around on the Titanic. In order to truly increase student outcomes we must seek to address and improve the conditions in urban neighborhoods. Doing so may not only increase student achievement, but also improve the quality of life of urban students.


Anyon, J. (2006). Education policy and the needs of urban communities. Journal of Curriculum & Pedagogy, 3(1), 54-57.

Jencks, C. and Mayer, S. (1990). “The social consequences of growing up in a poor neighborhood,”. In Laurence Lynn and Michael McGeary (Ed.), Inner-city poverty in the united states (pp. 111-186) National Academy Press.

Sharkey, P. (2013). Stuck in place: Urban neighborhoods and the end of progress toward racial equality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Wilson, W. (1996). When work disappears: The world of the new urban poor. New York: First Vintage Books.


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