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Urbanicity, Income, and Academic and Behavioral Functioning Across Childhood: Longitudinal Associations and Mediating Mechanisms

Miller, Portia (2015) Urbanicity, Income, and Academic and Behavioral Functioning Across Childhood: Longitudinal Associations and Mediating Mechanisms. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Economic disparities in academic and behavioral functioning are well documented in the U.S. Compared to more advantaged peers, low-income children begin kindergarten with fewer of the competencies that undergird school success. These disparities persist or grow as children age and ultimately relate to low educational attainment, worse psychological functioning, and intergenerational transmission of poverty in adulthood. In addressing income gaps in development, we must consider the changing geography of poverty. The last several decades have seen increases in the number of low-income families residing in suburbs and small towns, while poverty rates in urban centers and rural communities have remained high. Currently, low- income children are dispersed across communities spanning the urban-rural continuum. Urban, suburban, and rural areas represent unique contexts for development, which may alter relations between income and academic and behavioral functioning. In a series of studies using nationally representative data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998- 1999 (N≈16,000) and data from the Early Steps Multisite Study of 731 low-income families with children, this dissertation explores (1) whether links between family income and achievement and behavior problems at kindergarten entry differ by urbanicity; (2) whether links between income and growth/decline in achievement and behavior problems across elementary school differ by urbanicity; and (3) the processes that explain why economic disadvantage is differentially related to development across urbanicity. Results show that income gaps in kindergarten achievement are attenuated in rural areas and exacerbated in urban cities. Conversely, economic disparities in externalizing problems at kindergarten are largest in rural areas and small cities and relatively small in large urban cities and suburbs. Looking from kindergarten through fifth grade, income is more strongly linked to achievement growth and is more predictive of decreased risk of elevated behavior problems in rural areas and small cities compared to large cities and suburbs. Finally, within a sample of disadvantaged 5-year-olds, findings suggest that low-income rural children have better academic skills and fewer behavior problems than peers in urban areas, and this is partially explained by comparatively lower levels of pollution and neighborhood danger experienced by low-income rural children and families.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Miller, Portiaplm11@pitt.eduPLM11
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairVotruba-Drzal, Elizabethevotruba@pitt.eduEVOTRUBA
Committee MemberCampbell, Susan, B.sbcamp@pitt.eduSBCAMP
Committee MemberShaw, Daniel, S.casey@pitt.eduCASEY
Committee MemberBachman, Heather, J.hbachman@pitt.eduHBACHMAN
Date: 14 January 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 20 November 2014
Approval Date: 14 January 2015
Submission Date: 1 December 2014
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 148
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Economic disparities, urbanicity, achievement, behavior problems
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2015 14:23
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:25


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