Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name



Social Work

First Advisor

Arlene N. Weisz

Second Advisor

Anna M. Santiago


Background and Purpose:

Informed by ecological systems theory, social disorganization theory and social capital theory, this study investigates the neighborhood contexts associated with teenage childbearing and fathering for Latino and Black adolescents who resided in Denver public housing for a substantial period of time during their childhood. Specifically, I examine the extent to which teenage childbearing/fathering (between the ages of 15 and 19) are statistically related to various conditions in the neighborhoods in which these youth were raised. The purpose of this study is to examine how neighborhood effects may vary according to the timing and duration of neighborhood exposure.



This study utilized a secondary data source, the Denver Child Study, a large-scale, mixed-methods study of current and former residents of the Denver (CO) Housing Authority (DHA). Quasi-random assignment to neighborhoods offers a natural experiment for overcoming selection bias in the measurement of neighborhood effects. Data include (1) survey data from parent/caregivers; and (2) administrative data from the U.S.Census Bureau and the Piton


Foundation. Data gathered from parent/caregivers were geocoded for each year of their child(ren)'s life thereby providing a rare opportunity to comprehensively examine neighborhood exposure. The study sample (N=781) is approximately half Latino and half Black, and nearly one fifth of the sample birthed or fathered a child between the ages 15 and 19.


Using a two-level random effects logit model to account for clustering at the family level, I found that neighbborhoods with higher fractions of foreign born residents protected Black and Latino youth from teenage childbearing andfathering. This was true for contemporaneous, lagged, and cumulative models. In the cumulative model of neighborhood exposure, percentage of foreing born in the neighborhood evinced a larger effect on teenage childbearing/fathering than in separate developmental stages suggesting that neighborhood conditions across the lifecourse were magnified.

Conclusions and Implications:

Study findings are discussed in terms of their contributions to the literature regarding the magnitude of cumulative neighborhood effects and the existence of lagged and/or developmental stage specific effects of immigrant concentration on teenage childbearing/fathering for low-income Latino and Black youth. Study findings also are discussed in the context of expanding current policy and intervention efforts for teenage childbearing/fathering from focusing only on changing individual behavior to focusing on changeable social aspects of neighborhood. Finally recommendations for future research are made.

Included in

Social Work Commons