Youths growing up in low-income inner-city neighborhoods are at substantial risk for initiating substance use, violent behavior, and sexual intercourse at early ages; these risk behaviors continue at comparatively high rates through adolescence. Hopelessness has been implicated as a risk factor for these behaviors. In this paper, we consider how race influences this process. African Americans form a demographic minority within the United States, but they are often the majority within inner-city neighborhoods. For Caucasians, the opposite typically holds. Mixed-race populations form a minority within both contexts. Using longitudinal data, we examine the relationship between race and risk behaviors in several impoverished inner-city neighborhoods where African Americans form the distinct majority and Caucasians and people of mixed racial heritage form a small minority. We also consider how race moderates the relationship between hopelessness and risk behavior. Our findings show that compared to Caucasian or mixed-race adolescents, African American adolescents are less likely to engage in risk behaviors, and that hopelessness has a less important impact on their behaviors.
- Adolescent risk behavior
- Minority status