Research Grant Awarded to Institute of Education and Social Policy to Study Academic Performance by Children Exposed to Violent Crime

The William T. Grant Foundation has awarded $300,000 to support research at NYU’s Institute of Education and Social Policy on the effect that exposure to violent crime has on children’s academic performance.

Work on this 2011-2013 study, which is entitled “Crime, Context, and Academic Performance,” will be led by Amy Ellen Schwartz and Patrick Sharkey. Schwartz is a professor of public policy, education and economics at NYU Steinhardt and is the director of the NYU Institute for Education and Social Policy. Sharkey is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and at the Wagner school.

Children exposed to violent crime have poorer reading scores, higher rates of school absenteeism, lower educational attainment, higher dropout rates, and a lower likelihood of attending college. Prior research has also found that schools can buffer the negative psychological and behavioral effects of exposure to community violence. This study will examine the impact of recent exposure to violent crime on academic achievement and how the impact varies with respect to the timing of the incident, its physical proximity to the student, and the degree of violence.

Schwartz and Sharkey will also investigate whether the effects of exposure to violent crime on students vary by school and, if so, which features of the school settings moderate the effects of violence in academic achievement.

The study looks at New York City public school students in grades three through eight, and the neighborhoods in which they reside. This is a large-scale analysis of data obtained from the New York City Department of Education, the New York State Department of Education, and the New York City Police Department. Sources include individual-level longitudinal data on students in grades 3–12 over the course of three academic years, as well as school-level data describing school, student, and staff characteristics and school expenditures. In addition, 2007–2010 data from the NYC School Survey—completed by 6th through 12th grade teachers, students, and parents—will be analyzed. Finally, detailed violent crime data from the NYPD for the years 2004–2010 have been made available to the researchers.