Safe and sound? Exploring parents' perceptions of neighborhood safety at the nexus of race and socioeconomic status

Daphne A. Henry, Portia Miller, Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal, Alyssa K. Parr

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


Racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps appear in early childhood, persist into adolescence, and undermine long-term well-being. Scholarship typically examines whether family socioeconomic inequality explains racial skills gaps; however, increasing research indicates that the academic returns to socioeconomic status (SES) differ for Black and White children and that the size of Black-White achievement gaps vary by SES, with the largest disparities evident among the highest-SES students. The processes underlying the development of within-SES racial gaps remain unclear, though growing evidence suggests that racial disparities in proximity to (dis)advantage shape family life in critical ways. In particular, Black-White differences in proximity to spatial (dis)advantage may have serious implications for young children's health and well-being. Yet, little research has directly explored how race and family economic status shape children's family and neighborhood contexts. This chapter presents a mixed-methods study that integrated semi-structured interview, neighborhood observation, and neighborhood crime data from a socioeconomically-diverse sample of Black and White families to explore how the interplay between race and family economic status shapes parents’ perceptions of neighborhood safety. Findings revealed that race intersects with SES to produce complex patterns of inequality in community life and neighborhood conditions. Although economic disadvantage places limits on all parents, irrespective of race, dangerous conditions and stressors at the neighborhood level tended to be more pronounced and take a more pernicious form among low-income Black parents. Higher income granted parents escape from the most serious threats to their children's well-being, but the returns to increases in SES were not equivalent for middle-income Black and White families, and only among the most affluent families did race differences diminish considerably or disappear altogether.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationChild Development at the Intersection of Race and SES
EditorsDaphne A. Henry, Elizabeth Votruba-Drzal, Portia Miller
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages33
ISBN (Print)9780128176467
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameAdvances in Child Development and Behavior
ISSN (Print)0065-2407

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This chapter is adapted from a doctoral dissertation by Daphne A. Henry submitted to the Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. This research was supported by the National Academy of Education and the National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship Program, the American Psychological Foundation Koppitz Graduate Student Fellowship, and a grant from the Center on Race and Social Problems at the University of Pittsburgh.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Inc.


  • Academic achievement
  • Black-White achievement gap
  • Inequality
  • Intersectionality
  • Mixed-methods
  • Neighborhood


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