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Dondena Seminar- Geoffrey Wodtke

Geoffrey Wodtke
Online webinar
Remote video URL
Toxic Neighborhoods: The Joint Effects of Concentrated Poverty and Environmental Lead Contamination on Early Childhood Development

"Toxic Neighborhoods: The Joint Effects of Concentrated Poverty and Environmental Lead Contamination on Early Childhood Development"

SPEAKER: Geoffrey Wodtke (University of Chicago)

ABSTRACT: Although socioeconomic disparities in cognitive ability emerge early in the life course, most research on the consequences of living in a disadvantaged neighborhood focuses on school-age children or adolescents. In this study, we outline and test a theoretical model of neighborhood effects on cognitive development during early childhood that highlights the mediating role of environmental health hazards, and in particular, exposure to neurotoxic lead. To evaluate this model, we follow 1,266 children in Chicago from birth through the time of school entry, tracking their areal risk of lead exposure and the socioeconomic composition of their neighborhoods over time. We then estimate the joint effects of neighborhood poverty and environmental lead contamination on receptive vocabulary ability. We find that sustained exposure to disadvantaged neighborhoods reduces vocabulary skills during early childhood and that this effect operates through a causal mechanism involving lead contamination.

BIO: Geoffrey Wodtke is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago. He completed his Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Michigan in 2014, where he also earned his M.A. in statistics in 2011. His research is in the areas of neighborhood effects and urban poverty, group conflict and racial attitudes, class structure and income inequality, and methods of causal inference in observational research. He is currently working on several projects dealing with the impact of neighborhood poverty on child development, the link between private business ownership and income inequality, and new methods for handling treatment-induced confounding in longitudinal studies. His previous research on these topics has been published in the American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Demography, Social Forces, and Sociological Methodology.

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