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Communities are desirable places to live

Below is the research for each of the indicators for the result: Communities Are Desirable Places to Live

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Employment rates/employability

Research indicates that families of low-income workers experience less hardship than families of the unemployed, despite the demands of working a low-wage job.  In a comparison of unemployed families and low-wage workers who are or have been on welfare, for example, studies found that the workers were more likely than the unemployed to be able to afford their rent/mortgage, telephone, medical and grocery bills. 

Employment benefits the neighborhood at large, as well as individual families.  Research on African American males, for example, links a concentration of jobless males in a neighborhood to a negative effect on the educational outcomes of its students. 

Welfare employment studies have found that job instability is associated with personal crises, substance abuse, and mental health problems. A series of welfare employment studies have demonstrated that support services, specifically health insurance and formal childcare, promote stable employment. Research on the general population of low-income workers finds that Jobs Initiative participants with low job retention tend to be high school dropouts with a difficult commute or have recently received welfare.  This study by Abt finds that job retention is ultimately highest with participants who receive a combination of support services and hard and soft-skills training.1

Rate of participation in adult education programs

According to a report published by the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy, a recent longitudinal study of adult literacy learners in Tennessee found that adult education had a variety of positive outcomes on participants’ lives, including an increased employment rate, increased self-esteem and increased community participation. After a year of enrollment in an adult literacy program, participants in Tennessee increased their rate of employment from 32% to 48%.  In light of the various benefits of adult education, this study recommends that "rather than taking workforce preparation as an isolated objective, adult basic education needs to be seen as a process through which participants gain skills and confidence, enabling them to be truly productive members of the modern society, as workers, citizens, and family members."2

Rate of participation in school

Studies have documented that family participation in school is a major determinant of student success.  "No matter what the demographics, students are more likely to earn higher grades and test scores, attend school regularly, have better social skills, graduate and go on to post-secondary education when schools and families partner," said Karen Mapp, Ed.D., a leading education researcher on school, family and community partnerships.3

Research findings link family participation in education to a variety of positive outcomes for students: higher student test scores, grades, and graduation rates; better school attendance; increased motivation and student self-esteem; lower suspension rates; lower rates of drug and alcohol use; decreased instances of violent behavior; and greater enrollment in post-secondary education.  Parents also benefit when their participation in schools increases. Their communication and relations with students and teachers improves, as does their attitude toward school personnel. Parents can improve their own self-esteem and levels of education through participation in their children’s schools. Finally, teachers also profit when parents are more involved in schools, as they are better able to communicate with parents and students, and gain community support as a result of family involvement.4

% residents with health insurance

A Commonwealth Fund study in 2000, found low and moderate-income urban residents without insurance have less access to needed medical care than insured residents with similar incomes. Uninsured residents were less likely to have a regular source of medical care, to have visited a physician within the last year, and more likely to have delayed or foregone needed care in general.

This study illustrates the stark contrast between the experiences of the insured and uninsured. For example, forty percent of uninsured residents in Detroit and sixty-one percent in Los Angeles report having no regular source of care, compared with only six percent and eight percent, respectively, of their insured counterparts. Among nearly all the cities surveyed, the uninsured were twice as likely not to have visited a physician.

While states now have expanded opportunities to cover eligible uninsured children and their families under Medicaid and the Federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), cities and counties have limited ability to address their residents' lack of access to employment-based health insurance.
While long-term efforts may increase the proportion of residents working and the proportion of employed full-time, the Commonwealth report cites, cities and counties may lack the resources or authority to require small employers to offer health benefits or to mandate that employers make their employees' share of health insurance premiums affordable for moderate- and low-income workers. In the absence of universal coverage, moderate- and low-income urban residents will continue to experience barriers to needed health care. Cities and counties will bear the responsibility of providing for at least their minimum needs.5

Neighborhood crime rates

A neighborhood’s crime rate is an essential indicator of its overall social and economic health. High rates of crime indicate a lack of economic opportunities in a community as well as weak social bonds between community members. As neighborhoods become unsafe, residents and others have little incentive to invest in the community. Residents of a crime-ridden neighborhood do not experience a community, as they distrust their neighbors and do not believe in the possibility of community initiatives.

High crime neighborhoods have a particularly damaging effect on youth. Research has shown that youth in unsafe neighborhoods suffer when their adult role-models are fearful and distrustful. To increase students’ faith in their own communities and to rebuild communities destroyed by crime, concerted crime-prevention must be made alongside community-building efforts.6 

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1 "A Summary of the Research Rationale for Making Connections’ Outcomes and Indicators," p.1-2
2"Changes in Learners' Lives One Year After Enrollment in Literacy Programs: An Analysis from the Longitudinal Study of Adult Literacy Participants in Tennessee," Mary Beth Bingman, Olga Ebert, and Michael Smith, NCSALL REPORT #11, December 1999,
3 "Parenting 101: Family Involvement Equals Student Achievement," Warlene Gary, Guidance Channel E-Zine (
4 Ibid
5 "Disparities in Health Insurance and Access to Care For Residents Across U.S. Cities," E. R. Brown, R. Wyn, and S. Teleki, The Commonwealth Fund, August 2000,
6 Moore, Mark H. 1999. Security and community development, in Ronald F. Ferguson and William T. Dickens, eds., Urban problems and community development (Washington, D.C.: Brookings),
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