SANTA MONICA–Amid the hoopla and controversy swirling around the US census–RAND has quietly launched a major new four-year study of Los Angeles’ children–families and neighborhoods which may ultimately be just as important to the residents of this area. The study–known as the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Study–or L.A. FANS–will provide unique insights into the nation’s second largest city. For example–how do some families in violent and difficult neighborhoods manage to raise well-adjusted–successful children? Why do some youngsters who grow up in affluent neighborhoods and apparently happy families do poorly in school and develop behavior problems? Why are some children strongly influenced by friends while others resist peer pressures?
"There’s no shortage of speculation. But until now we haven’t had solid information to answer these questions–particularly for kids in Los Angeles," says Anne Pebley–director of the survey. "Most of what we know about these matters comes from studies conducted in Midwestern or Northeastern cities. But–in Los Angeles’ decentralized and lower density neighborhoods–reliance on the automobile–and great cultural diversity make for very different social environment for children and parents alike."
L.A. FANS will also assess the effects of a wide variety of current policy initiatives–including such major issues as: the recognition of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)–community and media efforts to encourage reading and school readiness for children–welfare reform and its effects on family and neighborhood life–expanded child care options–and new government programs to provide health insurance to poor and working class families.
For example–the study will interview families and children and assess reading and math skills both before and after the LAUSD splits into 11 new subdistricts this summer. As a result–it will provide a unique tool for measuring if–how and why this dramatic reorganization affects children’s school performance and parents’ involvement with schools.
The study is sponsored by the National Institute of Health–the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Planning and Evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services–and the Urban Research Division of Los Angeles County. Interviewers will contact roughly 3800 families in 65 neighborhoods. To provide a complete picture of life in each neighborhood–households both with and without children will be interviewed. Interviewers will talk to neighborhood leaders–businesspeople–and social service providers as well. The neighborhoods were randomly selected to provide a representative sample of Los Angeles County.
RAND interviewers–all of whom carry picture ID–will be knocking on doors in neighborhoods throughout the county in the next several months. Participants in the study will be contacted again next year and in 2003 to measure changes in their lives and neighborhoods.
RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis.
For more information about the project visit their website at www.rand.org/lafans. For interviews with survey director Anne Pebley–contact RAND’s public information office at (310) 451-6913