“Coming of Age in the Other America”

In her new book, Coming of Age in the Other America, named an Outstanding Academic Title by the American Library Association, Stefanie DeLuca and colleagues reveal some surprising factors associated with resiliency and upward mobility in a large proportion of disadvantaged youth, despite overwhelming odds. Ten years of fieldwork with families in Baltimore public housing (among the nation’s poorest neighborhoods) revealed that those able to move to better neighborhoods achieved much higher rates of high school completion and college enrollment than their parents. About half the youth reported being motivated by an “identity project” or a strong passion such as music, art, or a dream job – to finish school and build a career. Factors associated with lack of success included neighborhood violence, weak labor markets, exploitative for-profit trade schools and under-funded community colleges. The authors identified initiatives to support these ‘identity projects’ which motivate youth to stay in school, as well as greater regulation of for-profit schools and increased college resources. This is a story of a generation of underprivileged but ambitious Baltimoreans that challenges long-held myths about inner-city youth, and how becoming stuck in the same place as one’s parents – is far from inevitable.

Dr. Stefanie DeLuca is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the Johns Hopkins University. Her research interests include the effects of programs to help public housing residents relocate to better neighborhoods and schools through housing vouchers. Her work has been funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the National Science Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Abell Foundation, and by a William T. Grant Foundation Scholars Award, among others. In 2006 Stefanie testified in federal court on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Baltimore Thompson v. HUD housing desegregation case. She contributes regularly to media such as the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, National Public Radio, as well as academic journals. She is a fellow at The Century Foundation, and is a member of the policy advisory board at The Reinvestment Fund.

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