For decades, Chicago School scholars have shown that neighborhoods matter for a range of well-being outcomes including criminal involvement (Shaw and McKay 1942; Sampson, Raudenbush and Earls 1997; Hunte et al. 2012). Given these diverse consequences, one line within the neighborhood literature has long focused on locational attainments and individuals’ experiences in and out of neighborhood poverty. Recent research has begun to focus on key life course transitions, such as getting a job, getting married, and having children, and how they affect neighborhood attainments (Swisher et al. 2013; Sharkey 2012), but these studies do not answer questions about how individuals end up in school or married.
The current study draws on the social psychological and criminological literatures to examine the self-concept and weathering experiences as sources of capital that can be drawn on to achieve residences in better neighborhood outcomes. Specifically, I focus on self-esteem and individuals’ expected self for their future. Both of these aspects are shown to have significant effects on behavior patterns (Rosenberg et al. 1989; Zentner and Renaud 2007). Based on the effects previously found regarding criminal justice contact and violent victimization, I examine each of these experiences as well. This previous research has suggested that these life events can lead to negative consequences including inability to find employment, go to school, or take part in normative transitions (Pager 2003; Macmillian 2000; Johnson and Mollborn 2009).
In addition to examining the associations between the self and adolescent weathering experiences, I delve into possible mediating mechanisms. Previous literature has suggested that life course transitions offer important pathways through which individuals attain advantaged neighborhoods (Swisher et al. 2013; Sharkey 2012). I test whether education, employment, family formation, and independent living mediate the relationship between adolescent self-concept, weathering experiences, and adult neighborhood attainments. I also focus on how race may play a pivotal role in how self-concepts are associated with these life course transitions, borrowing from both psychological literature (Kao and Tienda 1998; Rowley et al. 1998) and research on institutional discrimination and blocked opportunities (South, Crowder, and Pais 2008; Pais, South and Crowder 2012). In this study, I use longitudinal data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Waves I-IV). Logistic and ordinary least squares regression analyses are run on a sample of almost 15,000 individuals. I find evidence suggesting that the self-concept, specifically the ideal self and weathering, are predictive of locational attainments. On the whole, these relationships are due to variations in educational attainments. There are limited differences in the self-concept by race/ethnicity, but there is significant racial/ethnic variation in the associations between marriage, coresidence, and neighborhood advantage in adolescence and neighborhood advantage in adulthood.
Overall, the current study examines the processes producing neighborhood attainment differences, with a specific focus on the self-concept and weathering experiences as a source of, or impediment to, adult capital. I fill a notable gap in the literature by incorporating assessments of the individual self as micro-level mechanisms, which can indirectly contribute to the attainment of better or worse neighborhoods in young adulthood.