Wilson, W.J. & Taub, R.P. (2007). _There Goes the Neighborhood: Racial, Ethnic, and Class Tensions in Four Chicago Neighborhoods and Their Meaning for America_. New York: Vintage Books.

Richard P. Taub, PhD Sociology from Harvard University, is Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago. His research in urban sociology includes economic development, poverty, social change, India, and Honor. Currently he is studying urban, rural, and community economic development, the nature of entrepreneurship, public policy and policy initiatives’ implementation, and the way neighborhood contexts shape aspiration. (See other entry for Wilson’s bio.)

Studying four distinct ethnic neighborhoods in Chicago and applying Hirschman’s (1970) exit, voice, and loyalty theory, Wilson and Taub “test” to see to what extent are Hirschman’s assumptions correct and what conditions inspire loyalty and the attendant exit or voice responses. They find Hirschman’s theory does apply and that America is “likely to remain divided, racially and culturally” (161).

Race and ethnicity matter. Differences in “belief systems, values, worldviews, linguistic patterns, even skills” (162) become outwardly manifest as barriers to intercultural communication. This separation is either voluntary (exit) or imposed (voice) following a power struggle in which one group successfully restructures  the movement of the subordinated group “through forms of residential, educational, and occupational discrimination, often justified by racist ideologies” (162). The more entrenched a social system, the less likely racial boundaries will give way; it’s even less likely the barriers will be challenged.

“The essential point is that long-standing or current residents often see the presence, even the threat, of different ethnic, racial, and class groups in the neighborhood as undesirable” (165).

The Beltway residents used voice, prompted by a need to stay in the city limits for municipal jobs, intense social organization, connections with local government, and like belief systems. The Dover Mexican enclave will become more Mexican because the erstwhile white population is opting for exit and will continue to do so. The single common ground between the two populations was against nearby blacks and a public school busing program.

Archer Park lacks loyalty. Long since a Mexican stronghold, the neighborhood is regarded more as a “stepping stone” community, therefore lacks traditional neighborhood stewardship. Despite the overwhelming Mexican majority, there is still distinct racial antagonism against nearby African Americans in demonstration of superior social standing.

The African American Groveland is the most loyal of all communities. While there is some anti-white sentiment, most interest in inward-focused on building a positive black identity. The only immigration into Groveland is by lower-class African Americans, which concerns current residents.

Findings:

  1. when residents sense the threat of inmigration, they will either exit or join forces with neighbors to fight change
  2. strong social organization will use voice
  3. the less faith, the faster the exit, and the faster the “tipping point” to a new majority population
  4. there are some “integration maintenance programs” which are just modern takes on redlining policies, consistent with structural racism

Policy recommendations:

  1. create an atmosphere first of local coalition building, then multiracial national coalitions, and
  2. end “laissez-faire racism” (Bobo, 1997), the belief that the circumstance of the African-American is his own fault and that he is therefore undeserving of government assistance.
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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Community Development, Major Field, Research Fields

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