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The Problems of Disadvantaged Youth

An Economic Perspective

One of the most important public policy issues in the United States is how to improve the life prospects of disadvantaged youth who, in their formative years, face low-quality school systems, poor access to health care, and high-crime environments. The Problems of Disadvantaged Youth includes a broad range of research examining various aspects of disadvantage, and ways of increasing the ability of low-income youths to improve their circumstances later in life.

Taking an empirical economics perspective, the nine essays in this volume assess the causal impacts of disadvantage on youth outcomes, and how policy interventions can alleviate those impacts. Each chapter develops a framework to describe the relationship between youths and later life outcomes, addressing such factors as educational opportunity, health, neighborhood crime rates, and employment. This vital book documents the serious short- and long-term negative consequences of childhood disadvantage and provides nuanced evidence of the impact of public policy designed to help needy children.

328 pages | 21 line drawings, 89 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2009

National Bureau of Economic Research Conference Report

Economics and Business: Economics--General Theory and Principles, Health Economics

Table of Contents


Introduction: What Have We Learned About the Problems of and Prospects for Disadvantaged Youth?

Jonathan Gruber

I. Education

1. The Behavioral Consequences of Pre-Kindergarten Participation for Disadvantaged Youth

David Figlio and Jeffrey Roth

2. Is Gaining Access to Selective Elementary Schools Gaining Ground? Evidence from

Randomized Lotteries

Julie Berry Cullen and Brian A. Jacob


3. Would More Compulsory Schooling Help Disadvantaged Youth? Evidence from Recent Changes to School-Leaving Laws

Philip Oreopoulos

II. Health and Healthy Behaviors

4. Mental Health in Childhood and Human Capital

Janet Currie and Mark Stabile

5. Childhood Disadvantage and Obesity: Is Nurture Trumping Nature?

Patricia M. Anderson, Kristin F. Butcher, and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach

6. Socioeconomic Disadvantage and Early Childbearing

Melissa S. Kearney and Phillip B. Levine

III. Contextual Influences

7. Parental Income Shocks and Outcomes of Disadvantaged Youth in the United States

Marianne Page, Ann Huff Stevens, and Jason Lindo

8. The Role of Religious and Social Organizations in the Lives of Disadvantaged Youth

Rajeev Dehejia, Thomas DeLeire, Erzo F. P. Luttmer, and Josh Mitchell

9. Neighborhood Violence and Urban Youth

Anna Aizer


Author Index

Subject Index

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