The Importance of Neighborhoods for Crime and Children’s Life Outcomes

Hans Grönqvist Susan Niknami Torsten Santavirta

Research shows that conditions in the neighborhoods in which children grow up play an important role for their future prospects. That is why families with children living in vulnerable areas should receive assistance from society to relocate, according to three economists in a new SNS report.

The Importance of Neighborhoods for Crime and Children’s Life Outcomes, English summary 527.3 KB PDF

There are significant differences between Sweden’s vulnerable areas and other residential areas. This is indicated by several measures of economic and social conditions. Even though conditions in vulnerable areas do not appear to have changed compared to other areas since the early 2010s, this rather seems to indicate that they are in a permanent state of marginalization, write researchers Hans Grönqvist, Susan Niknami and Torsten Santavirta in the SNS report The Importance of Neighborhoods for Crime and Children’s Life Outcomes.

“Our research review shows that conditions in neighborhoods where children grow up play an important role in terms of their opportunities in life. This is why the conditions in vulnerable areas are particularly troublesome. We call for measures to make it easier for families with children to leave these areas,” says Hans Grönqvist, professor of economics.

For instance, families with children might receive financial support to relocate. Another model might be to prioritize families living in vulnerable areas in the municipal housing queue to thereby receive housing in areas exhibiting better social and economic conditions. This may be combined with advice as well as perhaps rent subsidies or relocation grants, according to the researchers, who go on to suggest initiating pilot studies. They believe that the assistance to relocate should be assigned randomly among families whose children are the most at risk of remaining in vulnerable conditions.

“It might seem odd to let chance decide who will receive assistance to move. However, these measures are expensive, which is why they should be tested on a small scale to then be properly evaluated. In such a case, the most reasonable approach is to make a random selection among the families who need this assistance the most,” according to Susan Niknami, researcher in economics.

However, making it easier for some families to relocate is obviously not a long-term solution in itself. In addition to this, the researchers want to see an increased police presence and substantial initiatives related to schools and labor markets in vulnerable areas. One idea is to relocate some public activities to such areas. In addition to creating jobs in these public activities, this may also lead to an increased demand for local goods and services. At the same time, however, the researchers also see a risk of other job opportunities being pushed aside.

“A common theme in our report is that more data and evaluations are needed. This is necessary for researchers to be able to identify causal relationships and determine which measures actually improve conditions for children in vulnerable areas,” argues Torsten Santavirta, researcher in economics.

about the report

The report analyzes how vulnerable areas in Sweden differ from other residential areas with regard to aspects such as employment rate, income level, proportion of foreign-born individuals and proportion of young individuals living there. The researchers also compare some measures of crime in these areas, such as the number of reported crimes, exposure to crime and feeling insecure when moving through these areas at night. Data material going back at least ten years is used to monitor the development of different types of residential areas.

about the authors

Hans Grönqvist is a professor of economics at Linnaeus University.

Susan Niknami is a researcher in economics at the Swedish Institute for Social Research at Stockholm University.

Torsten Santavirta is a researcher in economics at the Institute for Housing and Urban Research at Uppsala University.