Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods

The Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) is a large-scale interdisciplinary study of how families, schools, and neighborhoods affect child and adolescent development. Originating in the early 1990s, the study was designed to advance understanding of the developmental pathways of human behavior. The PHDCN has examined  juvenile delinquency, adult crime, teenage sexuality, substance abuse, and mental health among other outcomes. The Project also provided a detailed look at the social environments in which human development takes place by collecting innovative data about Chicago, including its people, neighborhood institutions, and social resources.  Major results from the PHDCN and cognate studies are reported in Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect.  Based on over ten years of research on Chicago neighborhoods combined with personal observations about life in the city, Robert J. Sampson shows that spatial inequality is surprisingly enduring and that neighborhoods influence a wide variety of social phenomena, including crime, health, civic engagement, home foreclosures, teen births, altruism, leadership networks, and migration flows.  Synthesizing local and general mechanisms, the book provides a contextual theory with broad implications for explaining how cities work.

Sampson is currently engaged with a long-term follow-up of the PHDCN children under a grant from the Milgrom Foundation: “Successful Pathways to School and Work: Early and Later Transitions in the Lives of Chicago Children, 1995-2013.”  The central aim of this project is to identify the major transitions, both positive and negative, that characterize pathways to school and work among children growing up in a major city during critical developmental and historical periods.  In addressing this aim, Sampson is focusing on the interplay of three factors that prior research has identified as potentially important but that have not been simultaneously examined over time in one representative study: neighborhood context, residential mobility, and official criminal justice sanctions.  Across each of these domains, he will examine sources of disparity in children’s outcomes by race/ethnicity, class, and immigrant status.  Another goal is to study how macrosocial forces, such as the violence epidemic of the 1980s-90s and the Great Recession, are manifested in individual lives.