Places and Poverty: How City Context Affects Hardship

Valerie Lewis, Princeton University

Surprisingly little research to date has examined how city characteristics shape poverty. I focus on hardships associated with poverty, including material hardship, satisfaction with city and neighborhood, and feelings of safety, and how these hardships differ across a set of US cities. Using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation along with data on 97 cities, I examine individual and city level effects. I focus on the effects of labor markets and race conditions while controlling for several other city characteristics. I find that there is significant and substantial variation across cities in hardship, but very few of the quantitative city characteristics explain this variation. Additionally, the effects of being black and Hispanic vary considerably across cities. These findings show that disadvantaged individuals experience differing rates of hardship across cities. However, to understand how cities shape these differences, far more nuanced considerations of how cities work are needed.

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Presented in Session 26: Race/Ethnic Inequalities