Key facts about neighborhood safety

  • In 2016, 64 percent of children had parents who “definitely agreed” that their child was safe in their neighborhood.
  • Non-Hispanic black and Hispanic children are less likely than non-Hispanic white children to have parents report that their neighborhood is safe; in 2016, 72 percent of non-Hispanic white children had parents who “definitely agreed” their neighborhood was safe, compared with 54 percent of Hispanic children and 53 percent of non-Hispanic black children.
  • Children living in households at or below the federal poverty line (FPL) are four times as likely as children in higher-income households to live in a neighborhood that parents “somewhat or definitely disagree” is safe (12 and 3 percent, respectively, in 2016).

Trends in neighborhood safety

In 2016, 6 percent of children lived in neighborhoods parents “somewhat or definitely disagreed” were safe, 31 percent lived in neighborhoods parents “somewhat agreed” were safe, and 63 percent lived in neighborhoods parents “definitely agreed” were safe. The question wording changed slightly in 2016, so recent estimates are not directly comparable to previous years, but trends show that parents increasingly report that their neighborhoods are always safe. In 2011/12, when parents were asked, “How often do you feel this child is safe in your community or neighborhood?,” 57 percent responded “always safe,” compared with 50 percent in 2003. The percentage responding “never or sometimes safe” decreased from 16 percent in 2003 to 13 percent in 2011/12. However, most of the decline was from 2003 to 2007 (Appendix 1).

Differences by race/Hispanic origin*

Perceived neighborhood safety improved from 2003 to 2016 for each racial/ethnic group, although disparities remain. In 2016, 72 percent of non-Hispanic white children’s parents “definitely agreed” their neighborhood was safe, compared with 54 percent among Hispanic children and 53 percent among non-Hispanic black children. From 2003 to 2011/12, the percentage of non-Hispanic black children whose parents reported their child was “always safe” in their neighborhood increased from 43 to 49 percent; for Hispanic children, it increased from 46 to 52 percent. In 2016, non-Hispanic black and Hispanic children were more likely than their non-Hispanic white peers to live in neighborhoods that parents “somewhat or definitely disagreed” were safe, at 11, 10, and 3 percent, respectively. The percentages of children whose parents “somewhat agreed” that their neighborhood was safe were higher for non-Hispanic black and Hispanic children, at 37 percent each, compared with non-Hispanic white children, at 25 percent (Appendix 1).

Hispanic persons may be of any race.

Differences by family structure

Children living in single-mother households are more likely than children living with two biological or adoptive parents to live in a neighborhood that parents “somewhat or definitely disagree” is safe (9 versus 5 percent in 2016). Among children living with one biological parent and one stepparent, 8 percent lived in such neighborhoods (Appendix 1).

Differences by nativity

Foreign-born children and U.S.-born children with foreign-born parents are more likely than the children of U.S.-born parents to live in a neighborhood that parents “somewhat or definitely disagree” is safe (8, 9, and 5 percent, respectively, in 2016). U.S.-born children with U.S.-born parents are more likely to live in a neighborhood parents “definitely agree” is safe than their U.S.-born peers with foreign-born parents or foreign-born peers, at 66, 62, and 57 percent, respectively, in 2016 (Appendix 1).

Differences by neighborhood support

Children whose parents who report that people in the neighborhood help each other out are more likely to live in safe neighborhoods. In 2016, among children whose parents “definitely agreed” that people in the neighborhood help each other out, fewer than 1 percent lived in unsafe neighborhoods, compared with 18 percent of children whose parents “somewhat disagreed” that people help each other out and 36 percent who “definitely disagreed” (Appendix 1).

Differences by poverty level

Children living at or below the federal poverty level (FPL) are four times as likely to live in a neighborhood parents “somewhat or definitely disagree” is safe, relative to children living in households with incomes at least twice the FPL (12 and 3 percent, respectively, in 2016). Children living in families with incomes above the FPL but below twice the FPL fall in between, at 8 percent living in unsafe neighborhoods. Roughly equal proportions of children in families with incomes below the FPL, and with incomes above the FPL but below twice the FPL, have parents who “definitely agree” their neighborhood is safe (54 and 56 percent, respectively); however, children in families with incomes above 200 percent of the FPL are more likely (71 percent) to “definitely agree” their neighborhood is safe (Appendix 1).

State and local estimates

2003, 2007, 2011/12, and 2016 state estimates for neighborhood safety (parent report) are available from the National Survey of Children’s Health at http://www.childhealthdata.org/browse/survey/results?q=4757&r=1.

Data & appendices

Data source

Child Trends’ original analysis of data from the National Survey of Children’s Health, 2003–2016.

Raw data source

National Survey of Children’s Health.

https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/nsch.html

Appendices

Appendix 1. Parent Report of Neighborhood Safety for Children and Adolescents: Select Years, 2003–2016

Background

Definition

From 2003 to 2011/12, data were based on parents’ responses to the question, “How often do you feel the child is safe in your community or neighborhood?” Response options included “always,” “usually,” “sometimes,” and “never.”

In 2016, data were based on parents’ responses to the question, “To what extent do you agree with the statement: This child is safe in our neighborhood?” Response options were “definitely agree,” “somewhat agree,” “somewhat disagree,” and “definitely disagree.”

Suggested Citation:

Child Trends. (2019). Neighborhood safety. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=neighborhood-safety