Peer Reviewed Articles: (Click the links below to see full articles)
Howell, Junia. “The Unstudied Reference Neighborhood: Towards A Critical Theory of Empirical Neighborhood Studies.” Sociology Compass. e12649. DOI: 10.1111/soc4.12649. Click here to view the video abstract.
Ethnographic and quantitative studies of urban neighborhoods have played an essential role in contrasting deeply held stereotypes, highlighting systemic injustices, and shaping federal urban policy. However, the majority of these studies focus on a small slice of the most marginalized urban neighborhoods, leaving much unknown about the vast majority of communities and how to address persisting inequality. This piece examines these empirical and theoretical shortcomings and proposes integrating critical theory into empirical studies of neighborhoods. This new theoretical approach has implications not only for how scholars conduct their research but also for how this research is applied in public policy. Suggestions for future studies and policy are discussed.
Research in the USA provides evidence that neighbourhood conditions affect intergenerational mobility. However, what remains unclear is the extent to which the US context is unique in producing this influence. To examine this question, the present study directly compares neighbourhood effects on intergenerational mobility in the USA versus those in Germany – a country whose housing market and social welfare policies differ significantly from those in the USA. Results provide a blueprint for conducting cross-national neighbourhood effects studies and illuminate how the nature and severity of neighbourhood effects are nationally specific. These findings underscore the importance of considering how broader political contexts shape neighbourhood effects on intergenerational mobility – a consideration that has implications for proposed policy interventions.
Disaster research has drawn attention to how natural hazards transform local organizational dynamics and social inequalities. It has yet to examine how these processes unfold together over time. We begin to fill this gap with a county-level, longitudinal analysis that examines how property damages from natural hazards correlate not only with local shifts in poverty a year later but also counts of for-profit as well as bonding and bridging social capital organizations. Results show that poverty and all organizational types tend to increase with local hazard damages. They also show that poverty tends to increase most where the number of bonding social capital organizations is also increasing. This pattern suggests a Janus-faced dynamic in which bonding, or more inwardly focused, organizations that arise after disaster may end up inadvertently marginalizing those in more dire need.
This study investigates a largely ignored contributor to wealth inequality in the United States: damages from natural hazards, which are expected to increase substantially in coming years. Instead of targeting a specific large-scale disaster and assessing how different subpopulations recover, we begin with a nationally representative sample of respondents from the restricted, geocoded Panel Study of Income Dynamics. We follow them through time (1999–2013) as hazard damages of varying scales accrue in the counties where they live. This design synthesizes the longitudinal, population-centered approach common in stratification research with a broad hazard-centered focus that extends beyond disasters to integrate ongoing environmental dynamics more centrally into the production of social inequality. Results indicate that as local hazard damages increase, so does wealth inequality, especially along lines of race, education, and homeownership. At any given level of local damage, the more aid an area receives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the more this inequality grows. These findings suggest that two defining social problems of our day – wealth inequality and rising natural hazard damages – are dynamically linked, requiring new lines of research and policy making in the future.
The history of the U.S. housing market is bound up in systemic, explicit racism. However, little research has investigated whether racial inequality also persists in the contemporary appraisal industry and, if present, how it happens. The present article addresses this gap by centering the appraisal industry as a key housing market player in the reproduction of racial inequality. Using a census of all single-family tax-appraised homes in Harris County (Houston), Texas, the authors examine the influence of neighborhood racial composition on home values independent of home characteristics and quality; neighborhood housing stock, socioeconomic status, and amenities; and consumer housing demand. Noting that substantial neighborhood racial inequality in home values persists even when these variables are accounted for, the authors then use ethnographic and interview data to investigate the appraisal processes that enable this inequality to continue. The findings suggest that variation in appraisal methods coupled with appraisers’ racialized perceptions of neighborhoods perpetuates neighborhood racial disparities in home value. The authors conclude with suggestions for future research and policy interventions aimed at standardizing the appraisal process.
Despite long-term, documented declines in racialized attitudes, racial inequality persists. Scholars have theorized why this dissonance exists but few have empirically demonstrated how views can become more progressive while simultaneously maintaining inequality. The present study uses neighbourhood racial preferences and their influence on racial residential segregation to demonstrate how in a diversifying context residents can become more “accepting” while simultaneously maintaining the racial hierarchy, the opposite of what most of the literature currently assumes. Using data from three distinct sources in the United States, this research finds that U.S. residents are increasingly willing to live amidst diversity yet whites still concentrate in white neighbourhoods. In short, white Americans are more willing to live in diverse neighbourhoods than in the past, but they are not willing to desegregate. We argue this preserves racial inequality. We conclude with a discussion of our findings and their implications for future research and practice.
This study investigates the unequal impact of natural hazard damage on peoples’ residential instability over time by shifting analyses from an event-centered design common in disaster studies to a longitudinal, population-centered approach. To demonstrate this approach, we link annual data on property damages from natural hazards at the county level to geocoded data on nationally representative samples of men and women from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Results indicate that the average U.S. household lives in a county that experiences five documented hazards per year, totaling $20 million in direct property damage. Findings also indicate that as local damages accrue over time, so too does residential instability, net of other factors. This pattern is particularly strong for Black and Latina women, for whom measurable differences in personal and social resources interact with hazard damages to significantlyincrease residential instability over time.
In recent years, researchers have increasingly noted the malleability of racial boundaries across time, context, and life course. Although this research has advanced our knowledge of the maintenance and perceptions of racial groups, it has introduced a new question: If we are attempting to best capture the actual variation in racial inequality, how should we operationalize race? Using the 2006 wave of the Portraits of American Life Study, a national-level, in-home survey with extensive race measures and oversamples of Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians, the authors identify five ways that race can be and to varying degrees is operationalized: census, combined race/ethnic, pentagon, triracial, and skin tone measures. Using the Vuong non-nested model tests, the authors compare the effectiveness of these five measurements in predicting three measures of social inequality: household income, education, and self-rated health. The authors find that overall, Hollinger’s ethnoracial pentagon is best able to capture existing inequality. Thus, for scholars attempting to understand variation in contemporary racial inequality, this research suggests that scholars should use five monoracial categories: White, Black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian.
We investigate the relationship between stereotypes of immigrants and assessments of the impact of immigration on U.S. society. Our analysis exploits a split-ballot survey of registered voters in Ohio, who were asked to evaluate both the characteristics of one of four randomly assigned immigrant groups and perceived impacts of immigration. We find that associations between impact assessments and stereotypes of Middle Eastern, Asian, and European immigrants are weak and fully attenuated by control covariates. By contrast, this relationship for Latin American immigrants is strong and robust to controls, particularly in the areas of unemployment, schools, and crime. Our findings suggest that public views of the impacts of immigration are strongly connected to beliefs about the traits of Latin American immigrants in particular.
Howell, Junia “In Lady Liberty’s Shadow: The Politics of Race and Immigration in New Jersey,” by Robyn Magalit Rodriguez (Rutgers University Press, 2017). Ethnic and Racial Studies. DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2018.1499950
Throughout June 2018, images and audio recordings of crying immigrant children separated from their parents and locked in chained cages at the United States–Mexico border spread across global news circuits and social media platforms, reinvigorating debates over U.S. immigration policy. In compliance with the U.S. Justice Department's new “zero tolerance” policy, federal authorities were detaining individuals who lacked documentation and separating them from their children. Within a month, the number of migrant children housed in large warehouse facilities rose dramatically, sparking widespread criticism and questions regarding human rights violations. Struck by the apparent heartlessness of the administration's actions, many in the US public wondered how a “nation of immigrants” could enforce such inhumane policies. Simultaneously, others sighed in relief that the federal government was curtailing undocumented migration and wondered why it had taken this long. Robyn Magalit Rodriguez's insights in her book, In Lady Liberty's Shadow: The Politics of Race and Immigration in New Jersey, provide an essential context for this contemporary debate.
The poverty rate of Harris County, which surrounds Houston, rose from 10 percent in 1980 to 17 percent in 2014. That alone is a troubling trend, but equally concerning is the increasing tendency in the Houston area for that poverty to be highly concentrated. This report examines the clustering of poverty and the uneven distribution of economic circumstances across Greater Houston. It concludes that economic segregation is tightening its grip on Harris County and that the area’s neighborhoods are increasingly economically polarized. There is a declining number of middle-class neighborhoods in the region, and Greater Houston is experiencing an increasingly stark division between the “haves” and “have nots.”
Following a surge of burglaries in January and February 2014 on the 4500th block of Perry Street, the community mobilized and created an initiative called C.S.I.: ‘H.O.O.D (Community Safety Initiative: Helping Our Own Development). This report summarizes the crime states over the last several years. Additionally, the initiative conducted a randomize in-person survey of residents. The results of this survey are presented in this report and suggest residents are most concerned with the failing infrastructure and prostitution rates. However, community residents see building community as central to address these issues.
Houston’s population grew substantially between 1990 and 2010. Between 2000 and 2010, the Houston metropolitan area added more people (over 1.2 million) than any other metropolitan area in the United States. Analyzing the 1990, 2000, and 2010 censuses, the Houston region has grown dramatically more racially/ethnically diverse over the past 20 years, such that every racial/ethnic group is now a demographic minority. As of 2010, Houston metropolitan area is the most racially/ethnically diverse large metropolitan area in the nation, narrowly surpassing the New York metropolitan area. The analysis also finds that (1) the City of Houston is substantially more segregated than other areas of the region, (2) African American-Latino segregation in the region has declined most rapidly, (3) African Americans are most segregated where they represent the largest absolute and relative numbers, (4) the smaller the percentage Anglo in an area, the greater their segregation from other groups, and (5) Asians live closest to Anglos, and continue to be significantly segregated from African Americans and Latinos. Harnessing the region’s burgeoning racial/ethnic diversity is a central challenge for the Houston region.