Although several studies show that self-esteem varies according to neighborhood context, few have directly examined potential mediators of this association. In this paper, we use longitudinal survey data from the Welfare, Children, and Families project (1999, 2001) to examine the association between perceived neighborhood disorder and self-esteem among low-income urban women with children in Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio, testing for city heterogeneity. Building on social disorganization theory and previous research, we examine the mediating influence of social support. Our longitudinal models show that higher levels of disorder at baseline are associated with lower levels of social support and self-esteem. We also observe that increases in disorder over the study period are associated with concurrent losses in social support and self-esteem. Our mediation analyses suggest that perceived neighborhood disorder may undermine self-esteem by limiting opportunities for social support. Reducing signs and perceptions of disorder by improving the social and physical landscapes of neighborhoods may uniquely contribute to self-worth of low-income urban women with children.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Urban Studies