Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect

Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect

by Robert J. Sampson
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University of Chicago Press

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Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect

For over fifty years numerous public intellectuals and social theorists have insisted that community is dead. Some would have us believe that we act solely as individuals choosing our own fates regardless of our surroundings, while other theories place us at the mercy of global forces beyond our control. These two perspectives dominate contemporary views of society, but by rejecting the importance of place they are both deeply flawed. Based on one of the most ambitious studies in the history of social science, Great American City argues that communities still matter because life is decisively shaped by where you live.


To demonstrate the powerfully enduring impact of place, Robert J. Sampson presents here the fruits of over a decade’s research in Chicago combined with his own unique personal observations about life in the city, from Cabrini Green to Trump Tower and Millennium Park to the Robert Taylor Homes. He discovers that neighborhoods influence a remarkably wide variety of social phenomena, including crime, health, civic engagement, home foreclosures, teen births, altruism, leadership networks, and immigration. Even national crises cannot halt the impact of place, Sampson finds, as he analyzes the consequences of the Great Recession and its aftermath, bringing his magisterial study up to the fall of 2010.


Following in the influential tradition of the Chicago School of urban studies but updated for the twenty-first century, Great American City is at once a landmark research project, a commanding argument for a new theory of social life, and the story of an iconic city.

Robert J. Sampson is the Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and coauthor of Crime in the Making: Pathways and Turning Points through Life and Shared Beginnings, Divergent Lives: Delinquent Boys to Age 70.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226734569
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 02/10/2012
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 552
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

Table of Contents

Foreword vii

Acknowledgments xv

Part I Setting and Thesis

1 Placed 3

2 Neighborhood Effects: The Evolution of an Idea 31

Part II Principles and Method

3 Analytic Approach 53

4 The Making of the Chicago Project 71

Part III Community-Level Processes

5 Legacies of Inequality 97

6 "Broken Windows" and the Meanings of Disorder 121

7 The Theory of Collective Efficacy 149

8 Civic Society and the Organizational Imperative 179

9 Social Altruism, Cynicism, and the "Good Community" 210

Part IV Interlocking Structures

10 Spatial Logic; or, Why Neighbors of Neighborhoods Matter 237

11 Trading Places: Experiments and Neighborhood Effects in a Social World 261

12 Individual Selection as a Social Process 287

13 Network Mechanisms of Interneighborhood Migration 309

14 Leadership and the Higher-Order Structure of Elite Connections 329

Part V Synthesis and Revisit

15 Neighborhood Effects and a Theory of Context 355

16 Aftermath-Chicago 2010 386

17 The Twenty-First-Century Gold Coast and Slum 414

Notes 427

References 493

Index 525

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