The Community Context
Schools exist in communities that differ greatly in their characteristics. The images conjured up by the communities surrounding a school in the center of Newark, New Jersey, the college town of Storrs, Connecticut, or a rural community such as Farmington, California, should be sufficient to convince the reader that this community context will likely have great influence on what goes on within schools. It will largely determine the social composition of the studentry, have much to do with the kind of faculty that is recruited and retained, and the resources that are available or spent on education, among other things. In addition, a long history of research in criminology documents variations in crime rates among communities and strong associations between community characteristics and crime or victimization rates (Block, 1979; Harries, 1976; Pope, 1978; Quetelet, 1842/1969; Shaw & McKay, 1969). Block, for example, reports strong correlations at the census-tract level between log robbery rates and percentage black (.51), percentage high school graduates (-.54), percentage of families at 75% of the poverty level or below (.46), and percentage female-headed families (.53). Researchers in the human ecological tradition (Bordua, 1958; Chilton, 1964; Chilton & Dussich, 1974; Gordon, 1967; Lander, 1954; Shaw, 1929; Shaw & McKay, 1969; White, 1932; Wilkes, 1967) and social geographers (Hadden & Borgatta, 1965; Harries, 1976; Jonassen & Peres, 1960; Smith, 1973) have adduced incontrovertable evidence that delinquency rates vary in regular ways across social areas, and theorists (Kobrin, 1959; Kvaraceus & Miller, 1959; Mays, 1954; Miller, 1958; Shaw, 1929) have suggested some mechanisms through which these variations across social areas may come about. This tradition in social research has been neglected in recent years. For this reason, and because ecological community variables are regarded as important exogenous or control variables in the search for school characteristics related to disorder, a short description of the findings and perspectives of earlier researchers may be useful to many readers.
KeywordsCensus Tract Community Characteristic Community Context Social Disorganization Social Area
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