Conducted in collaboration with co-investigator Delbert S. Elliott (University of Colorado), the Youth Achievement study was designed to assess how the social development of youth is affected by the neighborhoods in which they live, and to identify those ecological characteristics that promote prosocial activities and discourage problem behavior. The project interviewed African American youth in poor and nonpoor neighborhoods in Chicago and Denver between 1990 and 1991. Extensive information was gathered on a variety of measures including social isolation, social networks, neighborhood associations, and community resource use, as well as important individual and family characteristics.
Guiding this study was the theoretical proposition that neighborhood disadvantage disrupts the social and cultural organization of neighborhoods in ways that ultimately weaken support for conventional behavior necessary for a successful transition to adulthood. Interest also centered on how family, school, and peer contexts directly influence development and could possibly mediate the effects of neighborhood disadvantage.