Poor Neighborhoods: Robert Sampson

Poor Neighborhoods: Robert Sampson


[MUSIC PLAYING] Much of social life
is actually rooted in place, and specifically,
in the local neighborhood. Neighborhoods vary tremendously
by all sorts of things. We know they vary by
things like poverty, but poverty is also connected
to many other things in social life, things
like health, well-being. It’s important to
not only recognize the great deal of differences
that exist across neighborhoods in the United States, it’s also
important to push a little bit further and try to figure
out what is going on. So we’re trying to
say, let’s put together the study of
neighborhoods that takes into account these classic
factors like poverty, like racial segregation,
almost like a laser beam focus on the social quality,
the social personality of neighborhoods, which requires
a new kind of methodology. So we went door to
door in Chicago, talking with about
9,000 residents. We asked them a
host of questions about their own
lives, but we also asked them about
their interactions with neighbors, their
perceptions, their fears. We went and interviewed them and
we came back about seven years later and we took a new sample. So we got a picture of the
dynamics of how neighborhoods changed from the
perspective of residents, but that’s not enough. So one of our major
objectives was to observe the
streets of Chicago. To do that systematically,
we drove down the streets in an SUV with
cameras mounted in the back and filmed each
side of the street. And we had our researchers code
from the film, systematically, characteristics of
the neighborhood. Who’s on the street? Is there graffiti? Are there people hanging out,
potentially fighting, yelling — cues of what
social scientists often refer to as disorder. When you have neighborhoods
that are in disarray, it’s a cue to
criminals in particular that no one cares about
this neighborhood, so it’s OK to go and
steal, to victimize. It’s going to attract offenders. Disorder, in a way,
is kind of like crime. It’s a manifestation. It’s a symptom of a
larger social problem, that there are
certain conditions in the neighborhood
that are driving both the crime and the disorder. We also study the organizations
in a neighborhood. That’s crucially important
because dimensions of resources and power
exist in the organizations in a community. So we sampled the
churches, the schools. We looked at the
police department, businesses, real estate, 3,000 leaders in Chicago,
even the politicians. In some communities, you find
the leaders are very tightly connected. They know one another. You can actually see
it, where there’s lots of dense connections
among all of the leaders and maybe only one or
two that are isolates, whereas in another neighborhood,
just a bunch of leaders not connected to others,
maybe one or two cliques. Turns out that the
communities where you have a more cohesive
or connected structure among the leaders of
organizations, they do better. In our study, we found
that collective efficacy varied tremendously
across neighborhoods. By collective efficacy,
I mean the sense that residents trust
one another and they believe that their
neighbors will take action if there’s a problem. Even in neighborhoods that
have been battered by disorder, by poverty, by
racial segregation, those things are all
related to crime, but there’s a certain
sense in which the social infrastructure,
or the fabric, can provide a kind of a buffer
that leads to lower crime. In other words, inequality
has multiple dimensions. It’s a dimension of
stratification by resources that are material in nature,
but neighborhoods are also highly stratified by
social characteristics. Now that we know that the social
fabric of a community matters, we need to turn our
attention to providing help to the communities that
are in trouble when it comes to the social fabric. [MUSIC PLAYING]

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

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