Family and Community Influences on Educational Outcomes Among Appalachian Youth

Published in: Journal of Community Psychology, v. 37, no. 7, Sep. 2009, p. 795-808

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2008

by Ryan Andrew Brown, William E. Copeland, E. Jane Costello, Alaattin Erkanli, Carol M. Worthman

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Recent research has shown how quantifiable aspects of community context affect a wide range of behaviors and outcomes. Due partially to the historical development of this field, currently published work focuses on urban rather than rural areas. The authors draw upon data from a longitudinal study of families and health in Appalachia - the Great Smoky Mountains Study (GSMS), and an ethnographically based interview tool - the Life Trajectory Interview for Youth (LTI-Y), to examine the impact of community and family poverty and educational attainment on educational goals and attainment among rural white youth (n=200). Exposure to family poverty and more educated parents were associated with youths' educational attainment. Meanwhile, both community education levels and parental education were associated with college goal-setting. These relationships were particularly strong among rural white males. This evidence suggests that more attention should be focused on how rural environments affect the lives and life chances of their inhabitants.

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