Neighborhood effects on youth substance use in a Southwestern City

Stephen Kulis, Flavio Marsiglia, Diane Sicotte, Tanya Nieri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


This study examines neighborhood influences on alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use among a predominantly Latino middle school sample. Drawing on theories of immigrant adaptation and segmented assimilation, the authors test whether neighborhood immigrant, ethnic, and socioeconomic composition, violent crime, residential instability, and family structure have differential effects on substance use among youth from different ethnic and acculturation backgrounds. Data are drawn from self-reports from 3,721 seventh-grade students attending thirty-five Phoenix, Arizona, middle schools. Analysis was restricted to the two largest ethnic groups, Latino students of Mexican heritage and non-Hispanic Whites. After adjusting for individual-level characteristics and school-level random effects, only one neighborhood effect was found for the sample overall, an undesirable impact of neighborhood residential instability on recent cigarette use. Subgroup analyses by individual ethnicity and acculturation showed more patterned neighborhood effects. Living in neighborhoods with high proportions of recent immigrants was protective against alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use for Latino students at different acculturation levels, whereas living in predominantly Mexican heritage neighborhoods (mostly nonimmigrants) was a risk factor for alcohol and marijuana use for less acculturated Latinos. There were scattered effects of neighborhood poverty and crime, which predicted more cigarette and alcohol use, respectively, but only among more acculturated Latinos. Inconsistent effects confined to bilingual and more acculturated Latinos were found for the neighborhood's proportion of single-mother families and its residential instability. No neighborhood effects emerged for non-Hispanic White students. Results suggested that disadvantaged neighborhoods increase substance use among some ethnic minority youth, but immigrant enclaves appear to provide countervailing protections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-301
Number of pages29
JournalSociological Perspectives
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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