Racial Segregation, Exposure to White Areas, and Perceptions of Safety Among African American Youth
African American youth face a range of challenges in navigating everyday life, such as residence in neighborhoods characterized by higher levels of segregation, poverty, and violence than those of their white counterparts. Less frequently considered are the effects of exposures beyond the home neighborhoods of African American youth, particularly those requiring navigation of racially and socioeconomically disparate environments. We consider alternative hypotheses drawn from the social isolation and relational ecology approaches to understanding variation in a basic environmental assessment necessary to everyday flourishing for urban adolescents – perceptions of safety. We employ novel geographically explicit ecological momentary assessment (GEMA) data on moment-to-moment perceptions of safety among a sample of African American youth residing in Columbus, OH. Findings indicate African American boys experience a declining sense of safety as the racial composition of the immediate environment becomes increasingly white. This association is only observed for African American boys who reside in high proportion African American neighborhoods, consistent with a relational ecology approach emphasizing the challenges associated with navigating structurally distinct environments for minority youth.