Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Ferguson and Beyond: A Descriptive Epidemiological Study Using Geospatial Analysis

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Ferguson and Beyond: A Descriptive Epidemiological Study Using Geospatial Analysis

Article excerpt

Ferguson, Missouri, has emerged as a cultural reference for structural inequality in the United States; however, beyond journalistic descriptions of the community, there is very little in the scholarly literature about the interdependence of health, education, and the well-being of members of this community and its surrounding areas. The current study is important because its focus on the interdependence of health, education, and place has largely been lost in discussions of the geography of opportunity in Ferguson and in similar isolated, at-risk municipalities across the United States (Rusk, 2013). Good health positively influences cognition, learning, achievement, and educational attainment. Similarly, a quality education is associated with better health outcomes. A key risk and protective factor in both education and health is the nature and extent of residential segregation and the associated geographic continuum of poverty and affluence (Purnell, Camberos, & Fields, 2014). In this study, the authors will examine the nature and extent of residential segregation and of health and education disparities in Ferguson and the surrounding region.

In The Truly Disadvantaged, Wilson (1987) is credited with providing a paradigm-changing explanation of the deterioration of segregated African American neighborhoods in the urban context. He argued that, until the mid-1970s, largely African American communities consisted of both poor and middle-class residents. Wilson documented the decline in industrial-age employment opportunities, including factory work, coupled with the out-migration of middle-class African Americans to surrounding suburbs in Chicago. Therefore, many African American communities were left with high concentrations of poverty and of social isolation. Wilson argued that these conditions fostered social instability and related negative developmental outcomes.

Some scholars assumed that the conditions in Chicago represented those in most urban communities in the United States. In the essay, "No Two Ghettos Are Alike," sociologist Mario Small (2014) stated, "Poor neighborhoods are difficult places to live, but not all are difficult in the same way" (para. 9). Small argued that Wilson's theory linked a substantial and fine-grained set of hypotheses, including many that were confirmed. However, over the course of the past two decades, Wilson's work has inappropriately dominated the picture of urban poverty because for some thought leaders, the work left little room for important questions about its universal applicability across urban metropolitan regions in the United States. Small challenged researchers not to ignore heterogeneity in their discussions of urban poverty and to avoid the related risk of stereotyping. Some scholars have endeavored to avoid this type of mischaracterization of urban poverty through their research, including relatively recent studies of Detroit, Chicago, and Boston (Galster, 2012a; Sampson, 2012; Tach, 2014). The authors accept this challenge as well and seek to better understand the uniqueness of Ferguson, Missouri, and its neighboring communities.

The purpose of this article is to describe an epidemiological study of Ferguson and its surrounding region using geospatial methodology. The aim is to demonstrate the salience of social epidemiological modeling in efforts to better understand how race matters in educational debates and discourse. The following questions will frame this article: What is social epidemiology, and how might this discipline inform the understanding of race and related educational and developmental outcomes in Ferguson and neighboring communities? The authors will discuss how research and policy interests involving racial health disparities and education disparities are interdependent. This will be accomplished by providing an evidentiary base using a variety of underutilized information sources from education and health.

URBAN SEGREGATION AND OPPORTUNITY

Over the past 20 years, there has been a renewed focus on the effects of geospatial arrangements and social contexts as opportunity factors in models of child and adolescent development broadly defined (e. …

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