Dissertation Abstracts

Neighbourhood effects on youth’s achievements : the moderating role of personality

Author: Nieuwenhuis, Jaap G., j.g.nieuwenhuis@tudelft.nl
Department: Social Geography & Planning
University: Utrecht University, Netherlands
Supervisor: Pieter Hooimeijer; Wim Meeus
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Neighbourhood effects , Personality types , Educational attainment , Unemployment
Areas of Research: Stratification , Regional and Urban Development , Youth


The aim of this dissertation is to investigate how neighbourhood effects on social mobility might be affected by parenting, problem behaviour, personality, and educational commitments. This aim came about when we considered the great variety in research findings from the neighbourhood effects literature, ranging from weak to strong neighbourhood effects, as well as insignificant effects and effects with reversed signs. We set out to study four factors that might mediate or moderate the neighbourhood effect on socio-economic outcomes. We look at the mediating role of parenting strategies and adolescent problem behaviour, and at the moderating role of personality and educational commitments. We expect the effect of the neighbourhood to differ between individuals who score differently on these four characteristics. We studied whether the neighbourhood effect on educational attainment is mediated by parenting strategies, as well as by adolescent problem behaviour. We investigated two neighbourhood characteristics: the proportion of immigrant groups and the mean property value in the neighbourhood. However, both are not mediated by parenting strategies and problem behaviour. We did find that parents are likely to adapt their parenting behaviours to the demographic composition of the neighbourhood.For example, parents in neighbourhoods with higher ethnic heterogeneity apply more protective parenting strategies. However, we did not find that the changes in parenting behaviour change the neighbourhood effect. Furthermore, we hypothesised that educational commitments might moderate the negative influence of neighbourhood disadvantage. This was supported by our analyses. We find that adolescents with the highest level of educational commitments are not or hardly affected, while adolescents with the lowest level experience a strong negative influence of neighbourhood disadvantage. Also, we hypothesised that adolescents with a resilient personality experience a weaker neighbourhood effect than overcontrollers and undercontrollers, because resilients are better able to cope with neighbourhood adversity. We found four things. First, our analyses indicate that the group of resilient adolescents experiences no influence at all of neighbourhood disadvantage on educational attainment, while overcontrollers and undercontrollers do. Second, for migrant youth, we find that living in neighbourhoods with moderate proportions of immigrants increases the educational commitments compared to living in neighbourhoods with lower proportions. We find, however, that migrant youth with a resilient personality experience less positive influence of the neighbourhood context than do adolescents with other personalities. Third, we find that the work commitments of resilients are hardly affected by neighbourhood adversity, while those of overcontrollers and undercontrollers are affected. And fourth, we find that only for overcontrollers, the chance of becoming unemployed is affected by neighbourhood adversity. To summarise, from our analyses it is likely that part of the heterogeneity in findings of neighbourhood effects studies can be explained by commonly unobserved characteristics. The most promising characteristics are educational commitments and personality types. Both seem to function as a powerful moderator between the relation between neighbourhood characteristics and individual socio-economic outcomes.