Research

Place matters. A growing body of interdisciplinary research demonstrates that neighborhoods affect residents. My research focuses on the extent to which inequality between neighborhoods and the social environment within neighborhoods affects residents’ physical and mental health and community participation. Housing cost and quality are linked to neighborhood location, housing is, therefore, at the nexus of individuals and neighborhoods. My newest research area explores how difficulties finding stable, affordable, and adequate housing affects residents.

CURRENT RESEARCH

With a local homeless service provider, I am studying two Permanent Supportive Housing programs. I designed and have begun data collection for a three-year, quasi-experimental outcome study and an implementation evaluation.

Housing and food insecurity is increasingly monitored at community colleges and 4-year universities. With students in an MSW research class, I examined the extent of insecurity among social work students. We found high rates of insecurity and a link between insecurity and grades, suggesting the need for universities and social workers to advocate for students’ basic needs.

I am analyzing data from a recent community-engaged research project. I conducted phone interviews as part of an asset mapping in a community-engaged project in a small city in Iowa. I reported results to the community collaborative including geographic maps and network maps of programs and services. Using this data, I am currently examining networks among programs, the spatial location of programs, and perceptions of barriers and solutions to community issues.

I am collaborating with researchers in Public Health and Sociology to examine housing instability in Johnson County, Iowa. Funded by the University of Iowa’s Office of Outreach and Engagement, we are investigating how local residents and students experience our tight housing market. Data collection is currently underway.

I am also currently analyzing data from the Anne E. Casey Foundation’s Making Connections intervention. A forthcoming paper examines the relationship between neighborhood tenure, donated social support, and neighborhood participation. Another project examines neighborhood collective efficacy and participation in neighborhoods.

PAST RESEARCH

Neighborhoods affect residents. Employing data from the Chicago Community Adult Health Study (CCAHS), which include a neighborhood-based survey of residents along with observations of neighborhood conditions, I have examined how social organization affects residents. I found that participation in neighborhood activism is associated with psychological well-being and social ties (published in the Journal of Community Psychology). In another paper, I tested three theories about the types of neighborhoods that are more likely to have residents engaged in activism. I found that individuals who live in neighborhoods with high affluence, high disadvantage, or both are most likely to engage in neighborhood activism in Chicago (published in the Journal of Urban Affairs). My research demonstrates that neighborhood activism is an important strength of disadvantaged communities. I found spatial clustering of organizational resources (in Journal of Community Practice). I found that neighborhood organizational resources matter for activism but not volunteerism (in Social Service Review). Two forthcoming articles examine how neighborhood conditions matter for Latinos’ participation.

Using  CCAHS data, I examined how neighborhood context matters for coping (in the Journal of Community Psychology) and the stress process (in the Journal of Urban Health). I also examined how neighborhood organizational resources contribute to resident health (in Health & Social Work).

While a postdoctoral researcher, I joined a research team studying the changing birth outcome disparities in Wisconsin. In Dane County Wisconsin, infant mortality among blacks declined sharply between 1999 and 2007—an improvement that was not seen in other communities or among other racial and ethnic groups. I analyzed survey data collected by an interdisciplinary team, including my postdoctoral mentor, Stephanie Robert, Ph.D. I investigated the relationship between neighborhood context and 1) birth outcomes and 2) mental health of mothers. Through this work, I further developed my expertise in social determinants of health and my skills in health disparities research.

I worked with a colleague at the University of Iowa School of Social Work to examine predictors of homeless chronicity in a sample of service users in Scott County, Iowa in the Quad Cities. This project informed the work of the United Way of the Quad Cities Area in efforts to address issues of poverty and economic inequality in the community.