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Fordham Professor is Co-Principal on Study of Bronx Latinos


Fordham Professor is Co-Principal on
Study of Bronx Latinos

By Janet Sassi

Emily Rosenbaum, Ph.D., is out to discover how housing can affect the health of Latinos in the Bronx.

Rosenbaum, professor of sociology, has teamed up with Earle Chambers, assistant professor of family medicine at Yeshiva University, on research funded by a $750,000 John and Catherine MacArthur Foundation grant.

The three-year study, which began this past January, focuses on Latino adults living in the West and South Bronx who are eligible for low-income housing assistance. It will measure the risk factors for cardiovascular disease among approximately 1,200 participants, aged 18 to 64, from three separate groups:

• those who live in Section 8, “voucher”-subsidized housing, typically located in mixed-income neighborhoods;

• those who live in public housing developments, which often contain a high concentration of low-income households; and

• those who are eligible for assistance but do not receive it, and who must pay market price for private-market, unsubsidized housing.

Rosenbaum and Chambers expect that the results of their research will show that people living in Section 8 mixed-income housing are at a lower cardiovascular risk than those living in public housing or in private-market, unsubsidized housing. Such a correlation could influence housing policy for underserved populations.

“The waiting lists for Section 8 and public housing are tremendous,” said Rosenbaum, co-author of The Housing Divide: How Generations of Immigrants Fare in New York’s Housing Market (New York University Press, 2007) and the author of a 2008 study on correlations between asthma prevalence, race and housing.

“If our study can contribute to the growing body of evidence that health is related to housing, it could build a better case for extending Section 8—not simply as an economic benefit but as a benefit that improves health, child outcomes and educational outcomes,” she said. “You’d then have a strong argument to increase such funding.”

Researchers will make in-home visits to collect information on physical activity, diet and other health information such as levels of stress and anxiety. They will also measure height, weight and waist circumference of participants. Study participants also will be given accelerometers to measure their daily activity levels.

In addition to the type (or absence) of housing subsidies used by participants, the study will examine how housing and neighborhood conditions influence participants’ health behaviors and indicators. For the participants in private-market, nonsubsidized housing, the study will focus on the percentage of household income spent on rent.

“There are a lot of people who spend such a tremendous amount of their income on housing that they can’t afford food and clothing for their kids,” Rosenbaum said. “If housing takes up that much of your income, it can become a health risk.”

The study is a response to the dearth of research on Latinos, housing policy and health that
exists even though Latinos are a sizeable portion of the population and an economically disadvantaged group.

The funded study is one of 13 grants, totaling $6 million, awarded by the MacArthur Foundation in the first stage of a $25 million initiative to study how housing affects communities and families.

Rosenbaum’s area of research is inequality in housing, education and health for racial/ethnic groups and immigrants. Chambers is a social epidemiologist studying the social environment of health.

“The MacArthur Foundation grant is a terrific affirmation of the quality of Fordham’s faculty and the vitality of our partnership with Yeshiva University,” said Stephen Freedman, Ph.D., provost of the University. “The work of Drs. Rosenbaum and Chambers will not only help improve health care for residents of the Bronx, but will advance our understanding of the interplay between medicine and issues of class and race.”


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