Project Description

Minority Supplement to Pathways to Pathways to High-Risk Drug Abuse Among Urban Youth:

The study was completed in August 2001. Project staff observed urban and suburban young adults in two clubs and two after-hours settings in Hartford where young adults were using and distributing drugs. Individuals were interviewed to ascertain current drug distribution activities and their reasons for being involved in drug sales. The study examined individual’s perception of, and involvement in, opportunities for legitimate employment, and the economic relationship between legitimate businesses and drug selling. Study results reported income as a major factor that influences Latino youth’s entrance into drug selling: individuals involved in drug sales and not otherwise employed earn twice the amount of those not selling but legitimately employed. Often, formal economic infrastructures (e.g., small businesses, restaurants, stores) provide a safe location for individuals to sell drugs, as well as providing many of the technologies (beepers, cell phones) that are used by urban drug selling youth. The informal economy of drug selling provides an economic safety net for many Latino youth and their families in Hartford; trading stolen goods, using money made from selling drugs in local stores, and building businesses with income generated by drug selling relatives fuels the economy of urban avenues. Eliminating drug use and drug selling from these avenues would have a significant negative effect on neighborhood businesses and income

Additional Information:

Jose Garcia, B.A. Principal Investigator
Jean J. Schensul, Ph.D. Co-Principal Investigator
This one-year study is a supplement to the four-year “Pathways to High-Risk Drug Abuse Among Urban Youth” study that seeks to understand the factors responsible for the transition from “soft” or “gateway” drug use (monthly alcohol, marijuana or one other drug use) to “hard” drug use (weekly heroine or cocaine use) among youth ages 16-24. The parent project identified involvement in street drug sales as one of the primary mechanisms through which youth initiate their own cocaine and heroin use. Focusing on a predominantly Latino area of Hartford, CT, this supplemental study uses ethnographic research (participant observation and informal interviews) to understand in greater depth the social and economic contexts related to drug selling among youth, and its effect on facilitating drug use transitions.
The study aims to:

Identify the role of drug distribution networks in drug use transitions among youth and young adults in Hartford, CT.

Describe the social and economic factors that influence the initiation of drug selling among youth.

Describe the relationship between the informal and formal economy in drug selling activities

García, J., Schensul, J., Heubner, C., Burkholder, G. Segmenting the Market: Diffusing Drugs in Urban Networks