Professor Geoffrey Wodtke examines the impact of poverty on child academic development

Geoff WodtkeProfessor Geoffrey Wodtke has recently received a SSHRC Insight Grant to research the impact of spatially concentrated poverty on child academic achievement in Canada and the U.S. While a large volume of research connects neighbourhood poverty and child development, scholars remain puzzled as to the particular ways that neighbourhood affects children.  Many scholars and policymakers point to differences in school quality as the main source of disadvantage, while other evidence suggests that environmental health hazards play an important role. Wodtke’s project will disentangle these two hypotheses and determine whether differences in the school environment and/or exposure to environmental health hazards can explain the harmful effects of neighbourhood poverty on child academic achievement. This knowledge is essential for adjudicating between different theoretical explanations of neighbourhood effects and for developing and evaluating policy interventions designed to mitigate the harmful effects of spatially concentrated poverty.

This project will answer these questions by matching and analyzing longitudinal individual-level survey data, neighbourhood- and school-level data, and data on a variety of different environmental health hazards. The project involves pulling together no fewer than eight unique datasets. With these matched data sources, Wodtke and his students will estimate the total, direct, and indirect effects of interest using novel methods for causal mediation analysis.

Professor Wodtke is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto and studies the effects of concentrated neighbourhood poverty on child development and educational outcomes; the factors of intergroup attitudes and how they change over time; and the causes and consequences of increasing income inequality since the early 1980s. Among his research duties, his work has been published in leading sociological journals, such as the American Sociological Review, Demography, and Social Problems.