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Awarded Cooperative Agreement to Prevent Violence and Violence-Related Injury

The Impact of Business Improvement Districts on Youth Violence

FOA Number: CE05-020 - Youth Violence Prevention through Community-Level Change
Project Period: 09/01/05-08/31/09
Application/Grant Number: 1-U49-CE000773-01
Principal Investigator: John M. MacDonald
RAND Corporation
Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment
1776 Main Street, PO Box 2138
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138


Research indicates that youth violence is associated with the social and economic characteristics of communities. A broad literature review has identified these patterns of community social disorganization and their relationship to violent behaviors, including those that occur among youth. Less research has identified specific actionable community-level interventions that can effectively mediate the influence of social and economic factors on youth violence. The proposed study seeks to build on an ongoing research portfolio at RAND on the community context of health and will evaluate an intervention specifically aimed at modifying community-level processes linked to youth violence.

The project will evaluate the impact of established business improvement districts (BIDs) in Los Angeles on modifying community-level factors associated with youth violence. Researchers will test whether BIDS have causal effects in reducing youth violence in the community; whether BIDs effects on youth violence are mediated by improvements in community social cohesion; whether BIDs effects on youth violence are mediated by improvements in the physical and social characteristics communities (built environment); and test whether BIDs effects on youth violence are mediated by improvements in community-level employment opportunities. Researchers plan to select the 31 urban census tracts in Los Angeles that contain BIDs and then use propensity score weighting to match these areas to a sample of 31 census tracts without BIDs (total N= 62). Through interviews with 3,100 households in these communities, interviews with BID officials, a two-wave longitudinal research design, and multi-level modeling, researchers will assess the extent to which community BIDs improve the social and economic factors in given communities, and in turn reduce the prevalence of youth violence. BIDs by design are grassroots and community-level, and are theoretically tied to the social processes outlined in community-based theories of neighborhood disorder and youth violence. The proposed multi-year (longitudinal) study will be the first effort to assess the impact of this community-based economic development model on youth violence.