“The Long Shadow”

West Baltimore stands out in the popular imagination as the quintessential “inner city” – gritty, run-down, and marred by drugs and gang violence. With the collapse of manufacturing jobs in the 1970s, the area experienced a rapid onset of poverty and high unemployment, with few public resources available to alleviate economic distress. Prof. Alexander’s research focuses on children who grew up in west Baltimore neighborhoods and others like them throughout the city, tracing how their early lives in the inner city have affected their long-term well-being. The experience of Baltimore’s children who came of age during this era is mirrored in the experiences of urban children across the nation.

Karl Alexander is the John Dewey Professor of Sociology at The Johns Hopkins University. He writes the following: “My research tries to understand why some children, and some kinds of children, are more successful in school than others and how this affects them later in life. I am particularly interested in the role schools play in society’s system of stratification, and how youngsters perform in school is an important part of the picture. Patterns of social inequality from generation to generation in large measure are maintained through the educational system. … Through survey studies of school age-youngsters, I try to identify features of the home, of the school, and of the individual that seem to promote or impede positive school adjustment.” Visit his webpage.

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