Methods: A systematic search of 21 databases was conducted to identify peer-reviewed publications, non-peer reviewed papers, and reports. Studies were included for review if they: a) evaluated an intervention in a defined geographic area within an urban/metropolitan area in the United States, b) the intervention was comprehensive in scope, c) included specified treatment and comparison groups, and d) the study was empirical. Policing and law enforcement interventions were excluded. The Methodological Quality Rating Scale (summary score of 9 items) was adapted from Miller et al. (1995) to assess the rigor of each study. An outcome attainment score was assigned to each study for comparison, which combined study methodological rigor with statistical significance for each outcome. The author compared one outcome that was consistent across intervention types: property values.
Results: Twenty-nine unique studies met inclusion and exclusion criteria. Intervention strategies included workforce and economic development (n = 14), housing and vacancy (n = 10), and comprehensive community initiatives (n = 5). Methodological rigor of studies was high, with a median score of 9 on a 13-point scale (M = 8.68, SD = 1.49). Twelve workforce and economic development interventions, 3 housing and vacancy interventions, and 2 comprehensive community initiative studies were high rigor. Studies in this review assessed 17 outcomes, with few consistencies across studies. Property values was the most common outcome measured by many studies (n = 15), followed by employment (n = 12), poverty (n = 7), and income (n = 7). Fourteen intervention sites found significant positive effects on property values, 5 of which were high rigor. Five workforce and economic development interventions, 6 housing and vacancy interventions, and 3 comprehensive community initiatives found significant positive effects on property values in target areas compared to control areas. Finally, national, program-wide analyses and local, site-specific analyses found differing results regarding intervention effectiveness across outcomes.
Conclusions and Implications: Workforce and economic development programs are the most commonly evaluated intervention strategy in this review, while property values is the most common outcome measure represented. The review also found that outcome measurement is inconsistent across studies, making outcome comparisons difficult. Additionally, studies that examine national, aggregate intervention effects may mask localized intervention effects. Recommendations for future community development research include measurement of consistent outcomes, and conducting program-wide and site-specific analyses to assess intervention effectiveness. Rigorous evaluation studies of place-based interventions are needed.