Author's School

Brown School

Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Michael Sherraden

Committee Members

Molly Metzger, Shenyang Guo, Von Nebbitt, Todd Swanstrom


Concentrated poverty has been a core issue in urban America for close to half of a century. The consequences of living in these neighborhoods are also dire. These "neighborhood effects" are defined as the effects of living in concentrated poverty over and above individual circumstances, which have been tied to a number of important life outcomes. One approach to addressing these issues is community development, and perhaps the most salient vehicle of community development is the community development corporation (CDC). This current study sought to address three aims: 1), understand the effects of CDCs on population-level outcomes; 2), understand the effects of potential proxies of neighborhood mechanisms, and 3) explore and detail the neighborhood mechanisms by which CDC activities affect both physical and social dimensions of neighborhoods. To test the hypotheses and answer the research questions, this study utilized a mixed-methods approach. The quantitative phase combined service area data from a local CDC capacity-building organization and population-level data from the United States Census Bureau and utilized propensity-score matching to yield balanced analytic samples of 166 census tracts for housing-related outcomes and 170 census tracts for person-related outcomes. Traditional linear and spatial lag models were used to examine the relationship between being in a CDC service area and a number of outcomes. Both sets of models showed that being in a CDC service area was associated with lower median incomes and greater percentage of residents on public assistance. The qualitative phase utilized ethnographic observations, focus groups, and interviews to understand the work done by CDCs and how these might impact neighborhood mechanisms. The results of the qualitative work indicated that CDCs go far beyond their traditional work in housing to impact numerous dimensions of their service areas, specifically, physical surroundings, networks, and institutional resources. The qualitative findings also suggested that while the quantitative findings show a greater percentage of residents on public assistance, this could be the result of these organizations building important networks between residents and social service and public agencies to access important assistance programs. The combined findings suggest that CDCs play a role in developing and maintaining multiple dimensions of the neighborhoods they serve, many of which are not accounted for due to being intangible, which has important implications for both practice and policy.

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