Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

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Inequitable Housing Practices and Youth Internalizing Symptoms: Mediation Via Perceptions of Neighborhood Cohesion

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Abstract:  Disordered urban environments negatively impact mental health symptoms and disorders. While many aspects of the built environment have been studied, one influence may come from inequitable, discriminatory housing practices such as redlining, blockbusting, and gentrification. The patterns of disinvestment and reinvestment that follow may be an underlying mechanism predicting poor mental health. In this study, we examine pathways between such practices and internalizing symptoms (i.e., anxiety and depression) among a sample of African American youth in Baltimore, Maryland, considering moderation and mediation pathways including neighborhood social cohesion and sex. In our direct models, the inequitable housing practices were not significant predictors of social cohesion. In our sex moderation model, however, we find negative influences on social cohesion: for girls from gentrification, and for boys from blockbusting. Our moderated mediation model shows that girls in gentrifying neighborhoods who experience lower social cohesion have higher levels of internalizing symptoms. Likewise for boys, living in a formerly blockbusted neighborhood generates poorer social cohesion, which in turn drives higher rates of internalizing symptoms. A key implication of this work is that, in addition to standard measures of the contemporary built environment, considering other invisible patterns related to discriminatory and inequitable housing practices is important in understanding the types of neighborhoods where anxiety and depression are more prevalent. And while some recent work has discussed the importance of considering phenomena like redlining in considering long-term trajectories of neighborhoods, other patterns such as blockbusting and gentrification may be equally important.

Keywords:  anxiety; Baltimore; blockbusting; depression; gentrification; internalizing symptoms; neighborhood social cohesion; redlining



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© Richard C. Sadler, Julia W. Felton, Jill A. Rabinowitz, Terrinieka W. Powell, Amanda Latimore, Darius Tandon. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.