College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-10-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Susan McMahon

Second Advisor

Bernadette Sanchez

Third Advisor

Goran Kuljanin


Research has shown that poverty is a greater predictor of educational disparities than race, despite the national focus on racial disparities. Further, living in disadvantaged neighborhoods that are characterized by qualities such as high poverty and unemployment can place a double burden on already poor students, further undermining educational achievement and future success. Neighborhood disadvantage is linked to a range of poor academic outcomes, yet only recently has research begun to explore the processes underlying the relationship between neighborhood disadvantage and these outcomes. Drawing on ecological theory, the following study proposes to examine how multiple settings relate to student outcomes. Given the importance of schools on student outcomes and the lack of attention given to schools in the neighborhood literature, this study will examine how school climate and school type relate to neighborhoods and student outcomes. Specifically, this study proposes that neighborhood disadvantage is associated with poor academic outcomes (11th grade GPA and postsecondary educational attainment) and that this relationship is mediated by school climate (academic climate, school order, and the condition of school facilities). Thus, the relationship between neighborhood disadvantage and student outcomes will be explained by school climates that undermine learning among students within these neighborhoods. Further, this study proposes that school choice disrupts neighborhood processes by providing access to schools with positive climates that support student learning, thereby alleviating the indirect effects of poverty on student outcomes. This study draws on data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002). The sample includes 11,490 students from 730 schools. In order to account for the nested nature of the data, multilevel models are used to examine the relationship between neighborhoods and schools on student GPA in 11th grade and educational attainment (or highest degree earned) ten years later. Results revealed a negative relation between neighborhood disadvantage and both GPA and educational attainment. However, this relationship was not mediated by school climate. Neighborhood disadvantage was negatively associated with school climate, but school climate was not predictive of GPA or educational attainment. Additionally, school choice was not found to moderate the relation between neighborhood disadvantage, school climate, and student outcomes. These findings have important implications for policy and practice. The negative effects of neighborhood disadvantage on school climate and student outcomes suggest that policies that address poverty concentration should be considered in order to support students. Further, although school climate was not predictive of achievement or attainment, the negative effects of neighborhood disadvantage on school climate indicate that schools should seek to provide all students with positive climates in which to learn, particularly in disadvantaged areas.

SLP Collection