Posts Tagged ‘urban sociology’


So long, Cabrini Green

April 11, 2011

by Sarah Michele Ford

It seems innocuous enough… an apartment complex just northwest of downtown Chicago, constructed between 1942 and 1962, and home to approximately 15,000 people.  But Cabrini Green wasn’t an ordinary apartment complex; to many, it represented everything that was wrong with public housing in American cities. Cabrini Green was the scene of countless acts of violence over the course of its decades as a predominantly poor, predominantly African American public housing complex.  Cabrini Green stood until last month, when the last of the high rise building was demolished.  During that time, Cabrini stood not just as public housing, but as a symbol of the problems of public housing in America’s cities.

The city, the plight and living conditions of the urban poor, has been a central focus of American sociology, and in fact Chicago itself has been the subject of more than its share of urban sociology, beginning in the early part of the twentieth century with the Chicago school.  So how would a sociologist approach the question of Cabrini Green?

A sociologist would look at Cabrini Green and see both symptom and problem.  Cabrini Green, and housing projects in general, concentrated poor people, concentrated minorities, into one place.  On the one hand, this made it more possible to deliver social services. On the other hand, because the urban poor are overwhelmingly African American, it effectively imposed racial segregation and exacerbated the very inner-city problems – gang violence, crushing poverty – that marred the lifetime of Cabrini Green.  These are the causes.  But it’s not that simple… because Cabrini Green was also a symptom. A symptom of racial prejudice, of fear of the poor and of urban violence.

What would be a better option? How can we better deal with the problems of the inner city?


Studying Human Ecology in Cities

May 19, 2009

Some sociologists study the connection between human populations and the physical environment in which these populations live. This area of study is called human ecology. Most studies of this type deal with urban sociology—they study cities. Cities can be defined as relatively small and specific areas where large numbers of people live in a nonagricultural mode of production. Some sociologists question the credibility, or how well a study’s results can be trusted, of social studies in cities because of the environment within a city.

Do large numbers of people living in a small area help spread illness?

Do large numbers of people living in a small area help spread illness?

Other social scientists contend that these problems are not caused by city living, but become more apparent in a city because so many people live in a comparatively small area. They argue that this is what makes the city such a fertile ground for sociological study. What do you think? Would you like to post a response to one of the topics below?

1. Some researchers argue that social problems are magnified when studying large numbers of people in small areas, such as a city. How could you use the current worry about a Swine Flu epidemic as an example to illustrate this point?

2. What social problems do you think a society might experience in a city? Are any of these only found in cities? Which ones? Why you think this is so?

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