My research focuses on how culture and urban development contribute to race and class inequality. I use multiple methods to answer my research questions including secondary dataset analyses, document review, interviews, and spatial analysis.
Portraits of Gentrification: When Neighborhood Change Becomes News, 1990-2014
Committee: Margaret Weir (co-chair), Claude Fischer (co-chair), Sandra Smith, and Carolina Reid
Contemporary studies of gentrification have predominately focused on low-income, black neighborhoods with middle-class in-movers, but recent quantitative research suggests that gentrification is more prevalent in low-income, white neighborhoods. My dissertation investigates why low-income, black neighborhoods are more likely to be called gentrifying and documents the implications of this through a study of meaning-making. Using newspaper articles from Baltimore, MD and San Francisco, CA from 1990 to 2014, I answer the question: How do the media frame gentrification and race?
Race and Upward Neighborhood Succession
The change from a lower to a higher income neighborhood or “upward neighborhood succession” is often assumed to result in racial change, particularly in the literature on gentrification. In fact, the literature to date has assumed that black communities most often face upward neighborhood succession without studying whether that is in fact the case. Yet studies of residential racial preferences, racial segregation, and trajectories of neighborhoods by race all suggest that black neighborhoods are more likely to be stagnant or declining. The qualitative case studies of the gentrification literature demonstrate that some middle-class whites do move to low-income black neighborhoods. But given the evidence that whites avoid predominately black neighborhoods, how prevalent is this pattern? Furthermore, with the racial demographics of cities evolving over time with increased immigration from Central America and Asia, are these class changes happening in non-black neighborhoods?
The Spatial Process of Class Reorganization
The income segregation and gentrification literatures have documented two potentially conflicting trends: the affluent are increasingly isolated from the middle-class and poor, yet low-income, inner-city neighborhoods are increasingly experiencing in-movement of the middle-class. With segregation scholars focused on aggregate trends over time and gentrification scholars focused on local change of specific neighborhoods, we have little understanding of how these two socio-spatial processes interact, or whether income segregation is driven by increasing concentrations of the affluent in areas with established affluent populations or due to the affluent concentrating in new areas. This paper investigates upward neighborhood succession or the change in neighborhood composition from a lower socio-economic to a higher socio-economic group from 1970 to 2009 to explain the patterns of neighborhood “upgrading” during a period of increasing income segregation.
Section 8 Recipients’ Past Experiences, Perceptions, and Potential for Self-Sufficiency
Although sociologists have paid much attention to the changing labor market including globalization and the decline in manufacturing in the United States, the main focus has been macro-trends of industries and broad implications for the American worker. The sociology of work literature has largely overlooked individual accounts to understand the micro-level impact of the “uncertainty, temporariness, and risk” (Smith, 2001, p. 7) of the new labor market, particularly for the working poor. While scholars of poverty (e.g., (K. Newman, 1999; Young, 2004) provide a glimpse into the lives of the poor, there remains little understanding of how the working poor navigate a labor market with limited opportunities for upward mobility. This paper builds on the work of MacLeod (1995) and Young (2004) to expand our understanding of the cognitive frames the working poor develop around employment and self-sufficiency as defined as living without government assistance. Using a cultural approach, I bridge the literature of sociology of work and poverty to explain how past experiences, self-assessments of employability, and perceptions of the labor market influence how the working poor of Section 8 recipients approach the world of work and how they view the possibility of upward mobility.