Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts
Neighborhoods and Development: New Approaches for a Changing America

Neighborhoods and Development: New Approaches for a Changing America

Headshot of Dawn Witherspoon
PI: Dawn Witherspoon
Penn State University
Headshot of Rebecca M. B. White
PI: Rebecca M. B. White
Arizona State University

NSF 1748374
Administered in: College of the Liberal Arts


This two-day workshop supported by NSF brought together a multidisciplinary group of scholars to improve understanding of how the places people live in influence their social, emotional, and cognitive development. Scientific evidence has documented how neighborhoods and other “activity spaces” – such as schools, workplaces, and social institutions – influence development. The aim of this workshop is to use this evidence to help build a comprehensive, place-based science. Broadly speaking, a place-based science of lifespan development will recognize that different residential neighborhoods and activity spaces might expose children, youth, and families to different resources and risks. These differences have important implications for development. In addition, there is a critical need to incorporate transdisciplinary perspectives on race, ethnicity, and culture to advance a place-based science that is relevant and meaningful for an increasingly diverse U.S. society. This workshop aimed to enhance the theoretical and conceptual frameworks that will support future place-based research on development across the lifespan. Such research can address important societal issues related to segregation, inequality, and positive development.

This workshop allowed a group of scholars to work together to (1) integrate existing theoretical foundations of neighborhood and activity space research and (2) critically analyze how these theoretical foundations can incorporate scientific evidence that has documented racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity in developmental processes across the lifespan. Additionally, workshop participants are developing a set of recommendations on innovative, dynamic, multi-level approaches that reflect theoretical and conceptual advances made in the workshop. Finally, the participants will address long-term methodological challenges in neighborhood and activity space research. The activities during the workshop has led to the development of a set of research questions and suggested approaches that will establish the next decade’s research agenda.