Making Connections Surveys
Understanding disadvantaged children in low income neighborhoods
In early 2000, the Annie E. Casey Foundation launched Making Connections, an initiative in 10 poor urban communities designed to improve outcomes for disadvantaged children and their families. To evaluate Making Connections, researchers at NORC at the University of Chicago, the Urban Institute, Case Western University, Chapin Hall Center for Children, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in collaboration with scholars at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, designed a survey that NORC implemented. The survey examines mobility, social capital and networks, neighborhood processes, resident perceptions and participation, economic hardship, the availability and utilization of services, and child and adolescent well-being. The data have been used by community development practitioners and neighborhood groups in the field who work to improve neighborhood conditions, in addition to state and federal officials who want to understand and develop best practices for community policy and by a wide range of scholars focused on issues related to poverty and family well-being.
Engaging stakeholders across diverse community settings
In keeping with the Annie E. Casey Foundation's mission to engage local residents and organizations in the evaluation effort, NORC worked collaboratively with local stakeholders to develop survey questions that, combined with the standard core set of measures shared by all sites, provided data that informed and shaped the initiative over time. NORC also worked closely with local partners on community outreach, interviewer recruitment, community authority notification, and survey sampling.
While the data were not explicitly collected for academic purposes, and the survey sites were not nationally representative, the diversity of the 10 sites offers good examples of the range of challenges local leaders and other policymakers face as they try to improve economically disadvantaged communities. The stereotypical declining neighborhoods of the survey's older industrial cities (e.g., Louisville, Milwaukee, Indianapolis) remain among the most critical. But they no longer fully represent America's "urban problem." There are poor neighborhoods in the East and Midwest with similar challenges but where, in addition, expanding immigrant populations are shifting the traditional dynamic (e.g., Des Moines, Hartford, Providence). Yet other troubled neighborhoods in other regions operate differently, ranging from fairly stable Hispanic communities with severe persistent poverty (e.g., San Antonio) to rapidly growing, racially diverse neighborhoods where extraordinary housing affordability pressures are overlaid on the more traditional barriers to family stability (e.g., Denver, Oakland, Seattle).
Unique features of the study
In addition to the survey topics and characteristics listed above, some features make these data different from many other surveys of this size:
During the initial neighborhood waves, respondents were asked to draw their neighborhood maps.
While only one child was the topic of the first survey, data were collected about all children in the household during the second and third waves, which is important for understanding the characteristics of the whole family. Data were collected about the schools children attended. The data included school readiness items for each young child. Youth transition into adulthood (aging out) outcomes were collected.
NORC harmonized the data and created 18 datasets which are available in NORC's Data Enclave.
Learn More About the Study
The Making Connections website has additional information about the surveys, including publications and details on accessing data.