Visiting Scholars, 2000–2001

About the Scholars

Lloyd Blanchard was Assistant Professor at the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington, at the time he visited IRP. In January 2002 he was appointed Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Small Business Administration. His research draws from the field of education, economics, and sociology to examine the seemingly intractable problems of urban public schools. He was a student of John Yinger's at Syracuse University, where he earned his Ph.D. in public administration in 1999. His dissertation was titled “School Segregation, Social Capital, and Educational Costs.” Professor Blanchard was in residence at IRP during the week of November 27 and gave a noon seminar on Wednesday, November 29.

Leo Morales is Assistant Professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research, UCLA. He holds an M.D. degree and a master's degree in public health from the University of Washington. After serving two years in the San Francisco Department of Public Health, where he became Interim Medical Director of Managed Care Programs, Dr. Morales accepted a general medicine fellowship at UCLA and has recently completed a Ph.D. in policy analysis at the RAND Graduate School. He is interested in expanding the scope of his research to the determinants of health status among minority populations. Dr. Morales visited IRP in October, 200l.

Sandra Smith is Assistant Professor of Sociology at New York University. After completing her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1998, she spent two years as a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the Poverty Research and Training Center, University of Michigan. Her research has investigated the ways in which race, ethnicity, and class interact to structure social and economic inequalities that persist over time. Her dissertation used the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality to examine social capital in terms of differing information channels about job opportunities, resulting in differential wage and promotion outcomes. She visited IRP during the week of March 19, 2001.

Reports on Current Research

Below are brief reports on research projects of the 2000–2001 scholars that were current at the time of their visit.

Lloyd Blanchard

Assistant Professor in the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington, Seattle, WA.

Does racial integration in schools improve some black outcomes and not others?

Since the publication of the Coleman Report, scholars have wrestled with whether or not, all else being equal, desegregation would improve the educational outcomes of disadvantaged black children.[1] In an attempt to answer this long-assumed, but never resolved question, I use a public-sector cost function approach, which includes a measure of black-white integration among other cost factors.[2] With the cost function, expenditure per pupil is the dependent variable and any number of outcomes can be used as explanatory variables, whereas with the traditional education production model, only one outcome can be used as the dependent variable. A key advantage is that the cost model focuses on the practical resource trade-offs that are inherent in the policy interventions ultimately sought. I modify this cost model to facilitate group-specific interpretations.

Using school district data from the Census, the Department of Education's Common Core of Data, and the New York State Education Department, I find a significant inverse relationship between black-white integration and educational costs when the test score and retention rate (one minus the dropout rate) variables are included in the model (New York sample), and a positive relationship between integration and costs when the retention rate is the only outcome variable included (U.S. sample). This suggests that greater integration reduces the cost of increasing black children's test scores, but raises the costs of increasing their retention rate. When I drop the test score variables from the New York model, the remaining retention effect becomes insignificant. Taken together, these results suggest a somewhat paradoxical effect: although integration may help improve the cognitive development of black children, it may also exacerbate the already high rates of dropping out of school for this group.

Though these results are interesting and potentially important, I would like to examine them using micro-data that allow a comparison of test scores and dropout rates of black and white students in districts with varying degrees of integration. Although this basic approach has appeared in the literature, one should take into account the ecological perspective that children develop within sets of embedded contexts. That is, it is likely that the social influences on individual students are contingent upon their membership in peer groups, classes, schools, and neighborhoods. Furthermore, this perspective may be the most appropriate way to represent the segregation that takes place in a variety of contexts. I believe hierarchical models are useful conceptual tools that help us discern the theoretical paths through which these ecological effects operate.

In its most general form, the hierarchical model is a random-coefficients model, where the estimated parameters of a regression equation are thought to vary by some specified group characteristic. For example, if the data contain 100 children in 10 neighborhoods, and test scores represent the dependent variable, a simple hierarchical model with an intercept and a single slope parameter on a student characteristic will effectively produce 10 estimates of the parameter that is thought to vary by neighborhood. Then, in effect, these estimated coefficients are regressed on the neighborhood characteristic to obtain the neighborhood-contingent effect of the student characteristic on test scores. This approach is somewhat equivalent to the common practice of including a student-neighborhood interaction term, but the hierarchical approach explicitly recognizes that only the student characteristic has a direct effect on test scores, whereas the neighborhood simply mediates this effect.[3] Moreover, if one included neighborhood variables specific to adult, peer, and institutional contexts, then one might be able to test the alternative hypotheses and learn more about the theoretical pathways through which neighborhoods operate. Notwithstanding the empirical problems of estimating neighborhood effects, the hierarchical model, in my opinion, provides a useful framework by which we can begin to better sort out the myriad influences on the educational outcomes of disadvantaged children that are not based in the school itself.

[1] J. Coleman, E. Campbell, C. Hobson, J. McPartland, A.Mood, and others, Equality of Educational Opportunity (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1966).

[2 For a seminal discussion on public-sector cost models, see D. Bradford, R. Malt and W. Oates, The Rising Cost of Local Public Services: Some Evidence and Reflections, National Tax Journal 22 (June 1969): 185-202. For a recent application to education, see W. Duncombe and J. Yinger, "Why Is It So Hard to Help Central-City Schools?" Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 16, no. 1 (1997): 85-113.

[3] I realize that this is an empirical question, but most studies avoid discussing the conceptual rationale for including such interaction effects. The mediating effect of environmental contexts is at the heart of the burgeoning social capital literature. For a recent review, see M. Woolcock, Social Capital and Economic Development: Toward a Theoretical Synthesis and Policy Framework, Theory and Society 27 (1998): 151–208.

Sandra Smith

Assistant Professor of Sociology at New York University

An Exploration into the Efficacy of the Job Referral Networks of Low-Income African Americans

Over the past twenty years, a growing body of research has examined the social capital and social resources of the urban poor in an effort to better understand the relationship between their presumed social isolation and persistent joblessness.[1] These studies have usually taken one of two forms. Drawing from the literature on job search strategies, the first seeks to determine the extent and efficacy of informal contact use, such as friends, family members, and acquaintances, over more formal methods of job search. The second type of study follows the tradition within the social resources literature and implicates the structure and composition of poor people's networks. From both lines of research, two elements of social capital are documented: (1) the size of one's network of ties; and (2) the network's available resources. To the extent that social capital and social resources play a role in the experience of persistent joblessness among the urban poor, it is because, in absolute and relative terms, they tend to be embedded in networks with too few contacts who are structurally positioned to provide much-needed links to employment.

The research of the past two decades has done much to shed light on the role that social capital, or the lack thereof, has played in persistent joblessness, but an essential element of social capital has often been ignored. Although more members of the networks of urban poor people are weakly attached to the labor market, the poor are hardly isolated from others who have connections to mainstream institutions. Instead, the urban poor are often unable to mobilize job-finding assistance from friends, family members, and acquaintances who are endowed with social resources.[2] Thus, a third element of social capital is implicated: the willingness of contacts to aid when given the opportunity. But we know very little about the obligations, expectations, and issues of trust associated with the exchange of job information within poor, urban communities.

To fill this gap, I have collaborated with Alford Young, Jr, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan, to conduct in-depth interviews and to collect survey data relating to a random sample of 100 public housing residents of a predominantly low-income, African-American community in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Although data collection still continues, preliminary analysis is revealing. Consistent with previous research, the majority of residents in our sample thus far who have served as job contacts have reported a disinclination to assist in the job search process beyond telling job-seeking ties about vacancies.[3] Two reasons predominate. Many reported an unwillingness to be more active, for example, by talking to employers on the jobseekers' behalf, because, based on previous experiences, they feared that jobseekers would not follow through upon the information given by applying for the position. However, even if jobseekers succeeded in filling vacancies, contacts worried that jobseekers would prove themselves unreliable soon thereafter. Thus, in an effort to avoid looking bad, job contacts often distanced themselves from the jobseekers by providing a level of assistance that did not closely link them to these prospective employees--a method of assistance least effective at securing employment for referrals. Even when employers offered monetary incentives to their employees in an effort to increase referrals, distrust resulted in job contacts' continued reluctance to recruit jobseekers to whom they were connected.

I stress that these analyses are preliminary. However, these insights are providing a fuller picture of the social processes related to the exchange of job information within low-income African American communities, and a backdrop against which to better understand the relationship between social capital and persistent joblessness within poor, urban communities.

[1] See, for example, R. Fernandez and D. Harris, "Social Isolation and the Underclass," in Drugs, Crime, and Social Isolation, ed. A. Harrell and G. Peterson (Washington, DC: The Urban Institute, 1992); G. Loury, "A Dynamic Theory of Racial Income Differences," in Women, Minorities, and Employment Discrimination, edited by P. Wallace and A. LaMond (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath, 1977); G. Green, L. Tigges, and D Diaz, "Racial and Ethnic Differences in Job-Search Strategies in Atlanta, Boston, and Los Angeles,"Social Science Quarterly 80, no. 2 (1999): 263-78; P. Kasinitz and J. Rosenberg, "Missing the Connection: Social Isolation and Employment on the Brooklyn Waterfront."Social Problems 43 (1996):180-96; W. Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987).

[2] K. Newman, No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City (New York: Knopf and Russell Sage, 1999); R. Waldinger, Still the Promised Land? African-Americans and New Immigrants in Postindustrial New York (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996)

[3] Green, Tigges, and Diaz, "Racial and Ethnic Differences"; S. Smith, "Mobilizing Social Resources: Race, Ethnic, and Gender Differences in Social Capital and Persisting Wage Inequalities," Sociological Quarterly 41, no. 4 (2000): 509-37.