A global study of adolescents from low-income neighborhoods revealed that teenagers from Baltimore, a city located just 40 miles from the US capital, are faring worse than their counterparts in Nigeria.
Many people tend to associate child poverty with desperate scenes out of Africa or India. But according to a recent WAVE study, an international survey that examined the living conditions of 15-19 year olds in poor areas in Baltimore, Shanghai, Johannesburg, New Delhi and Ibadan (third largest city in Nigeria), the problem is much closer to home than many people realize.
In the five neighborhoods examined in the study, poverty was the common thread that linked these culturally diverse locations. Differences among the teens in these urban areas became obvious, however, when it came to how they perceived their state of well-being.
Teens from Baltimore and Johannesburg, South Africa, viewed their communities more negatively than the other locations in the study.
In Baltimore, teenagers exhibited high rates of mental health problems, drug abuse, sexual violence and teen pregnancy. In comparison, teens in New Delhi, despite residing in a much poorer country than the United States, showed fewer signs of such social behavior.
The lead author of the study, Kristen Mmari, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, said the perception teenagers have of their communities plays a large role in how they behave.
“For example, a young man in New Delhi and a young man in Baltimore may both live in neighborhoods with poor living conditions and little opportunity, but because the teenager in New Delhi is able to see his environment in a more positive light, he is less likely to experience to adverse health problems,” Mmari told Vocativ. “He paints a different picture.”
Also, the prevalence of violence and weak social cohesion, which ranks higher in Baltimore and Johannesburg than in the three other cities, also has an impact. In Baltimore, a high number of teenagers from impoverished homes grow up in single-parent homes, in many cases with the father in prison, while many adolescents in Johannesburg have lost a parent to HIV/AIDS.
The study tends to show that the issue of poverty, together with its many disturbing social symptoms, is a worldwide phenomenon. The results also show that the total wealth of a nation is not necessarily linked to the social circumstances of a large portion of its population.