Theories of social causation and social influence, which posit that neighborhood and social network characteristics are distal causes of substance use, are frequently used to interpret associations among neighborhood characteristics, social network characteristics and substance use. These associations are also hypothesized to result from selection processes, in which substance use determines where people live and who they interact with. The potential for these competing selection mechanisms to co-occur has been underexplored among adults. This study utilizes path analysis to determine the paths that relate census tract characteristics (e.g., economic deprivation), social network characteristics (i.e., having ≥ 1 illicit drug-using network member) and illicit drug use, among 172 African American adults relocated from public housing in Atlanta, Georgia and followed from 2009 to 2014 (7 waves). Individual and network-level characteristics were captured using surveys. Census tract characteristics were created using administrative data. Waves 1 (pre-relocation), 2 (1st wave post-relocation), and 7 were analyzed. When controlling for individual-level sociodemographic factors, residing in census tracts with prior economic disadvantage was significantly associated with illicit drug use at wave 1; illicit drug use at wave 1 was significantly associated with living in economically-disadvantaged census tracts at wave 2; and violent crime at wave 2 was associated with illicit drug-using social network members at wave 7. Findings from this study support theories that describe social causation and neighborhood selection processes as explaining relationships of neighborhood characteristics with illicit drug use and illicit drug-using social networks. Policies that improve local economic and social conditions of neighborhoods may discourage substance use. Future studies should further identify the barriers that prevent substance users from obtaining housing in less disadvantaged neighborhoods.
- Drug use
- Social epidemiology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)
- History and Philosophy of Science