How Has the Economic Downturn Affected Communities and Implementation of Science-Based Prevention in the Randomized Trial of Communities That Care?
This study examined implications of the economic downturn that began in December 2007 for the Community Youth Development Study (CYDS), a longitudinal randomized controlled trial of the Communities That Care (CTC) prevention system. The downturn had the potential to affect the internal validity of the CYDS research design and implementation of science-based prevention in study communities. We used archival economic indicators and community key leader reports of economic conditions to assess the extent of the economic downturn in CYDS communities and potential internal validity threats. We also examined whether stronger economic downturn effects were associated with a decline in science-based prevention implementation. Economic indicators suggested the downturn affected CYDS communities to different degrees. We found no evidence of systematic differences in downturn effects in CTC compared to control communities that would threaten internal validity of the randomized trial. The Community Economic Problems scale was a reliable measure of community economic conditions, and it showed criterion validity in relation to several objective economic indicators. CTC coalitions continued to implement science-based prevention to a significantly greater degree than control coalitions 2 years after the downturn began. However, CTC implementation levels declined to some extent as unemployment, the percentage of students qualifying for free lunch, and community economic problems worsened. Control coalition implementation levels were not related to economic conditions before or after the downturn, but mean implementation levels of science-based prevention were also relatively low in both periods.
KeywordsPrevention Community coalition Efficacy trial Economic downturn Internal validity
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