The Company You Keep: The Effects of Family and Neighborhood on Disadvantaged Youths
NBER Working Paper No. 3705
We examine the effects of family background variables and neighborhood peers on the behaviors of inner-city youths in a tight labor market using data from the 1989 NBER survey of youths living in low-income Boston neighborhoods. We find that family adult behaviors are strongly related to analogous youth behaviors. The links between the behavior of older family members and youths are important for criminal activity, drug and alcohol use, childbearing out of wedlock, schooling, and church attendance. We also find that the behaviors of neighborhood peers appear to substantially affect youth behaviors in a manner suggestive of contagion models of neighborhood effects. Residence in a neighborhood in which a large proportion of other youths are involved in crime is associated with a substantial increase in an individual's probability of the being involved in crime. Significant neighborhood peer effects are also apparent for drug and alcohol use, church attendance, and the propensity of youths to be out of school and out of work. Our results indicate that family and peer influences both operate in manner such that "like begets like."