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Current Research Projects

Redefining Exposure: Adolescent Travel Patterns, Exposure to Violence, and Daily Mood and Risk-Taking Behavior

Children who grow up exposed to community violence are more likely to develop internalizing and externalizing problems and engage in high-risk behaviors (substance abuse, violent behavior). Research in this area is limited by a reliance on fixed measurements of violence exposure that make the assumption that youth living in similar neighborhoods are equally exposed to violence. Using GPS-enabled cell phones and GIS mapping strategies we are developing and testing the validity and predictive power of a dynamic measure of community violence exposure. A sample of Chicago youth carried phones for a two-week period while also completing daily ecological momentary assessments (EMA) assessing mood and risk-taking behavior. Geographic coordinates were linked with locations of violent crime and community characteristics such as abandoned buildings, and alcohol and tobacco retailers. This work will provide more accurate estimates of overall rates and variability in violence exposure and understanding of the timing of violence exposure and negative effects on youth – knowledge that can be used to develop targeted intervention strategies.

On the Brink of Adulthood: Understanding Education and Work Decisions Among Low-Income, Ethnic Minority Youth

Although teens in the U.S. are focusing more on attending college, socioeconomic disparities in college enrollment persist.  Moreover, the existing literature lacks research on how post-high school plans unfold in the everyday lives of low-income, racial/ethnic minority students.  Taking a mixed methods approach, the proposed research aims to help fill this void by depicting an in-depth portrait of post-high school plans, predictors of such plans, and related decision-making among low-income, racial/ethnic minority youth who participated in the Chicago School Readiness Project (CSRP) as Head Start preschool students.  In ongoing work, quantitative analyses will provide descriptive statistics on post-high school plans, and multinomial models will be used to predict teens’ plans from a wide range of individual and environmental factors across early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence, which were examined over 5 waves of data collection.  To learn more about teens’ decision-making processes (e.g., setting goals, pursuing goals, facing obstacles, and revising goals), we will conduct focus groups and in-depth interviews with participants.

Income, Societal Perceptions, and Health and Well-Being

We are currently using several datasets, including a nationally representative sample of over 2,000 adults, to test relationships between different dimensions of income and individual well-being. Past work has examined income loss post-Recession and societal perceptions, the experience of relative versus absolute income, and income trajectories or variability in income over time and how these different experiences shape individual health and well-being.

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