The Urban Review

, Volume 42, Issue 5, pp 458–467 | Cite as

Perceived School and Neighborhood Safety, Neighborhood Violence and Academic Achievement in Urban School Children

  • A. J. MilamEmail author
  • C. D. M. Furr-Holden
  • P. J. Leaf


Community and school violence continue to be a major public health problem, especially among urban children and adolescents. Little research has focused on the effect of school safety and neighborhood violence on academic performance. This study examines the effect of the school and neighborhood climate on academic achievement among a population of 3rd–5th grade students in an urban public school system. Community and school safety were assessed using the School Climate Survey, an annual City-wide assessment of student’s perception of school and community safety. Community violence was measured using the Neighborhood Inventory for Environmental Typology, an objective observational assessment of neighborhood characteristics. Academic achievement was measured using the Maryland State Assessment (MSA), a standardized exam given to all Maryland 3rd–8th graders. School Climate Data and MSA data were aggregated by school and grade. Objective assessments of neighborhood environment and students’ self-reported school and neighborhood safety were both strongly associated with academic performance. Increasing neighborhood violence was associated with statistically significant decreases from 4.2 to 8.7% in math and reading achievement; increasing perceived safety was associated with significant increases in achievement from 16 to 22%. These preliminary findings highlight the adverse impact of perceived safety and community violence exposure on primary school children’s academic performance.


Environment Neighborhood Violence Academic performance 



This work was supported by National Institute of Mental Health 5T32MH019545-18, National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse 1R01AA015196, and Center for Disease Control & Prevention 1U49CE000728. City planning data was provided by the Baltimore City’s Mayor Office of Information and Technology. School Climate and Maryland State Assessment data was provided by the Baltimore City Public School System.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. Milam
    • 1
    Email author
  • C. D. M. Furr-Holden
    • 1
  • P. J. Leaf
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Mental HealthJohns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA

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