Conference Feature: Where is the Chicago Ghetto?
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
CUSS Newsletter, Summer 2015, Vol. 27, No. 3
Ernest Burgess’s essay, “The Growth of the City” presents us with one of the iconic images in urban sociology and beyond; the concentric zone model has been reprinted in virtually every textbook in urban geography, urban sociology, and more. Burgess is clear that the purpose of the model (or chart, as he labeled it) is to demonstrate the process of neighborhood succession, a central concept for the Chicago School: “In the expansion of the city a process of distribution takes place which sifts and sorts and relocates individuals and groups by residence and occupation. The resulting differentiation of the cosmopolitan American city into areas is typically all from one pattern, with only interesting minor modifications. Within the central business district or on an adjoining street is the “main stem” of “hobohemia,” the teeming Rialto of the homeless migratory man of the Middle West. In the zone of deterioration encircling the central business section are always to be found the socalled “slums” and “bad lands,” with their submerged regions of poverty, degradation, and disease, and their underworlds of crime and vice. Within a deteriorating area are roominghouse districts, the purgatory of “lost souls.” Near by is the Latin Quarter, where creative and rebellious spirits resort. The slums are also crowded to overflowing with immigrant colonies—the Ghetto, Little Sicily, Greektown, Chinatown—fascinatingly combining Old World heritages and American adaptations. Wedging out from here is the Black Belt, with its free and disorderly life.”