In a five year program of research, Shirley Brice Heath and associates studied a wide variety of different community organizations serving inner-city youth in the United States.18 (p.5) They found that over 90 percent of the organizations were described by local city officials as serving "communities suffering from poverty, crime, severe ethnic tensions, teenage pregnancies, and broken homes."
A study of the community being served by four adult continuing education centers in San Diego, California confirmed many of the findings of Heath and associates.19 (p. 16) Compared to the total San Diego area, in the inner-city community there was more crime, teenage pregnancy, high infant mortality, unemployment, and poverty. Importantly, more than one in five of the adults 25 years of age or older in the inner-city community had fewer than nine years of education, while in the surrounding communities less than one in 17 of the adults had fewer than nine years of education.
In San Diego, a telephone survey of over 500 adults produced a sample similar to that in the U. S. Census (Figure 4). The survey included questions to divide the adults into five literacy knowledge levels based on their knowledge of authors, magazine titles, famous people, and vocabulary words. The survey revealed that, compared to adults in the higher literacy levels, those in the lowest level were younger, less well educated, and made-up of more minority members. They were also more likely to think that their neighborhoods were not as safe as other San Diego neighborhoods, crime was more serious and, in general, they did not feel as secure as those in the more affluent, higher literacy levels (Figure 4).20
18 Heath, S. & McLaughlin, M. (1993). Identity and Inner-City Youth: Beyond Ethnicity and Gender. New York: Teacher's College Press.
19 McDonald, B., Huie, C., Sticht, T., & Grimes, W. (1994,April). Learning in the Action Research Center (ARC) Community: Inquiry, Reflection, and Change in the Delivery System for Continuing Education Services for Adults in the San Diego Community College District. El Cajon, CA: Applied Behavioral & Cognitive Sciences, Inc.
20 Sticht, T., Hofstetter, R., & Hofstetter, C. (1995). Knowledge, Literacy and Life in San Diego. El Cajon, CA: Applied Behavioral & Cognitive Sciences, Inc.