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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 14, 2008 | Vol. 37 No. 30
Stefanie DeLuca of Sociology Named a William T. Grant Scholar

Stefanie DeLuca, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at Johns Hopkins, was recently named a William T. Grant Scholar, a major fellowship given each year to four to six early- career scholars conducting high-quality research in the social and behavioral sciences.

DeLuca plans to use her $350,000 prize to spend five years examining the role of moving in the lives of American youth. The title of the project is "Moving Matters: Residential Mobility, Neighborhoods and Family in the Lives of Poor Adolescents."

DeLuca said she is interested in residential mobility because moving shapes, and is shaped by, the pivotal contexts of family, school and neighborhood. Past research shows a strong association between moving--especially repeat moving--and negative outcomes, such as dropping out of school, depression and antisocial behavior. However, other research has shown that moving from poor neighborhoods can be beneficial, even if it severs some social ties. DeLuca seeks to understand the conditions under which moving is detrimental or beneficial for youth development. She is also interested in examining mobility as a multifaceted concept that involves the possibility of change in one or more contexts. Current research, DeLuca said, usually treats moving, family change and school change as separate events when they are often linked.

DeLuca's new project builds on her previous research on the Gautreaux and Moving to Opportunity housing voucher programs, where she studied families escaping from poor neighborhoods. "Instead of focusing only on 'neighborhood effects,' I will also examine the process of moving itself," DeLuca said. "The field needs better research on the effects of social environments, but also on how families select into and out of those environments." To that end, she will examine reasons for moving, distances, family structure and school changes.

Another distinctive feature of DeLuca's research is that she is looking at the effects of moving for very poor families, whose reasons for moving are more likely to be involuntary, in particular. In her fieldwork, DeLuca will be interviewing low-income mothers in Mobile, Ala., about why they move and how they use moving as a strategy for family management and youth well-being. The data she collects will supplement survey data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, the Mobile Alabama Youth Survey and the Moving to Opportunity program interim follow-up data. She will be looking at how moving affects dropping out of high school, substance abuse and mental health. In addition to the W. T. Grant award, DeLuca has recently received funding for related projects from the Spencer Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation and National Academy of Education.

DeLuca, a graduate of the Human Development and Social Policy program at Northwestern University, is one of four young scholars to be named William T. Grant Scholars this year. The process is extremely competitive. Candidates from around the country are nominated by a supporting institution and must have five-year research and mentoring plans that demonstrate creativity, intellectual rigor and a commitment to continued professional development. A selection committee composed of prominent senior scholars screens all applications, and a small group of finalists is invited to New York for an interview.

Founded in 1936, the William T. Grant Foundation aims to further the understanding of human behavior through research. Its mission focuses on improving the lives of youth ages 8 to 25 in the United States.


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