Archive for the ‘Current Projects’ Category

The One Percent: A Culture of Poverty?

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Most sociologists have focused on the poor. Speculating here, there may be several reasons for this. They are perceived as being a major problem for society, there are a lot of them, and they are relatively easy to study: they are often powerless to resist being poked and prodded and put under a microscope.

But what about the very rich?  From warping politics to skewing US society toward greater inequality, they are a group that has had a profound impact on US society. But they are relatively opaque. We know little about how and why they behave the way they do and what might  be the implications of their behaviors. At the very minimum, they seem to be profoundly unhappy and feel they are unappreciated lately.

So one project I am working on is to use the frameworks of analysis used to understand the poor as a means to analyze the wealthy. Te results, which should be ready for publication in the spring, are very interesting and potentially informative for public policy.

Children in cities

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

For my follow up to my book on the history of using architecture and health to promote health (see Building American Public Health: Urban Planning, Architecture and the Quest for Better Public Health in the United States), I am working on a book on the history of children in US cities. It’s going to interesting. For one thing, children are very sensitive to the envieprinmental conditions around them.  Changes in social policy as well as health and environmental problems can have a profound impact on them. From th rise of US cities in the nineteenth century to changes in welfare policy in the twentieth, children have seen important changes in their living conditions

Some of the topics I intend to address include: child labor, infectious diseases, schools and segregation, environmental diseases, and obesity and the issue of whether children should live in cities at all. I am deep into the research and writing of this book.

New York Streets Neighborhood – Boston

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Henri Lefevbre famously said that urban space is socially constructed. Peter Marcuse elaborated on this by pointing out that urban form is the result of conflict  between groups.  Langley Keys used game theory to describe these conflicts, pointing out that different groups have identifiable strengths and goals they bring into these conflicts and thus the resulting form is the result of compromises and battles between these groups.

But what happens when one group has all the power and has no need or desire to compromise?  The result can be the extreme rebuilding of a neighborhood.  One community that has seen at least a half dozen of these highly unequal battles for space is Boston’s New York Streets Neighborhood.  This project is a case study documenting how extreme inequality can dramatically change urban landscapes.

A history of urban sprawl

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

We know that people in the United States have been moving to the edges of cities and metropolitan areas for centuries. See Robert Bruegann’s A Compact History of Sprawl or Dolores Hayden’s Building Suburbia for the details of this history.  Even the post World War II era saw several waves of suburban development development that Hayden characterized as sitcom suburbs and edge cities. The end of the century saw extreme commutes with a lot of development in what are now often referred to as exurbs.

But what we don’t know is how much sprawl has been occurring over the past many decades and whether these trends are continuing at a steady pace, accelerating, or decelerating. One very imprecise measure is the proportion of people living in suburbs versus center cities, but this tells us very little  because some suburbs are very dense and sone central cities contain large areas of low density development. For example, some suburbs are denser than their center cities: Somerville, MA and Daly City, CA are two.  Other cities, such as Phoenix and Houston, have very low density areas within their city limits (not to mention the issue with measures for consolidated cities an counties).

A problem with many sprawl measures is that they’re relative measures. Even if you could calculate them for multiple years, they would not tell you how sprawl changed in that particular metro area.

So one project I am working on is to calculate sprawl for every metro area for each census year from 1970 to 2010. This uses a measure developed by my colleague Pat Hynes and me that is based on the difference between the proportion of a metropolitan area’s high density and low density population. A measure I call the Density Balance Sprawl Index.

The results, almost ready for publication, will surprise many people. Stay tuned.