Category Archives: Blog

Understanding Housing Informality in Los Angeles

by Steven Schmidt, University of California Irvine
CUSS Newsletter, 2021 Summer, Vol 34, No 2

During a warm summer evening in Los Angeles, I interviewed Mabel on the sideline of her son’s baseball practice. A single mom from Guatemala, Mabel lives with her three kids in an apartment bedroom that she rents under the table from an older woman. Mabel sees the rented room as a stepping stone to owning a home: “I want to grow, to eventually have my own house. But for now with my situation, I have to wait a little longer to be able to do it.”[i] Later that year, I met Lisa, a middle-income white woman who rents a home about five minutes away from Mabel. Although her lease does not allow sublets, Lisa usually rents out one of her three bedrooms. I asked what she looks for in a roommate: “We don’t cook animal products, we eat organic, so a health-conscious person. We didn’t want more kids, that was just too much.” Sharing a home is relatively common in Los Angeles, where an estimated 47% of families live doubled-up, or with another adult who is not a romantic partner (Bretz, 2017). While many doubled-up renters live in multigenerational homes, Mabel and Lisa live with non-family members. How do renters find opportunities to rent spaces in other households, and how do families decide who they will allow to live with them?

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Interview w/ Jackelyn Hwang: 2020 Addams Award for Best Article

Jackelyn Hwang, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Stanford University, was the winner of the 2020 Jane Addams Award for best article. Jackelyn’s innovative research agenda examines the relationship between how neighborhoods change and the persistence of neighborhood inequality by race and class in US cities. We reached out to ask her to discuss her research, and we’re including her responses below. Thanks to Jackelyn for participating in our interview series!

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2020 Park Award: Sites Unseen

The winner of the 2020 Robert E. Park Award is Sites Unseen: Uncovering Hidden Hazards in American Cities.  New York: Russell Sage Foundation by Scott Frickel  & James R. Elliott. It is part of the American Sociological Association’s Rose Series in Sociology. Below is a discussion with the winners on industrial waste and its legacy in the urban landscape.

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Teaching Urban Sociology in a Time of Mass Uprisings for Racial Justice and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Colleen E. Wynn
Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of Indianapolis
2021 Winter, Vol. 34, No.1 

According to the US Census Bureau, the majority of Americans live in urban areas. And, as urban sociologists, we’ve known cities matter for a long time, but more and more we’re seeing the rest of society take note. Cities played a major role as the location and backdrop for the mass uprisings for racial justice we saw earlier this year, especially mid-sized cities in the South and Midwest that are often included but not highlighted in our scholarly work. George Floyd’s brutal murder by police in Minneapolis helped to spark the mass uprisings we saw earlier this year and the current civil rights movement, as did Breonna Taylor’s murder in her home by Louisville Metro Police in my hometown of Louisville. In Indianapolis, where I live and teach, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police shot and killed Dreasjon Reed and McHale Rose, two incidents which have not received as much national attention but have locally mobilized many activists. These are, of course, only a few cases. Activists and organizers across the country mobilized around these cases, as well as many others that have not received nearly as much national attention. 

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Interview with 2019 Graduate Student Paper Award winner, Zachary Hyde

Zachary Hyde, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia, was the winner of the 2019 Graduate Student Paper Award. Zach’s innovative research agenda brings work in relational economic sociology to bear on longstanding questions in urban sociology. We reached out to ask him to discuss his research, and we’re including his responses below. Thanks to Zach for participating in our interview series!

What were the main findings of your paper?

My paper “Giving Back to Get Ahead” focuses on the popular urban policy of density bonusing, where private development companies provide affordable housing and other social services in exchange for extra density. The main finding of the paper is that density bonusing forms a paradox, whereby “giving back” social services simultaneously increases developer profits. Through contributing services developers enhance their symbolic capital via gift-giving, which can be traded in for economic advantages in future dealings with local governments.

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Interview with Harvey Molotch, Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award Winner (2019)

The CUSS newsletter team reached out to the 2019 Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award Winner, Harvey Molotch, to reflect on his career and his trajectory as an urban sociologist. Dr. Molotch is Professor Emeritus at NYU and UC Santa Barbara and is a prominent figure in urban sociology and our section. We’re including his responses below:

What initially brought you to urban sociology? 

I’ve always had a thing for land and buildings. Children play with blocks; I kept at it. When growing up in Baltimore I liked watching things go up, including houses and especially movie theaters. From family scuttlebutt I learned that a part of making things happen was connections – that’s what gets zoning, building permits, and even permission to have a neon sign. Don’t be shocked, dear reader, but there were bribes.

When I got to urban social science, my Baltimore was not in it. Crime was certainly there but largely sequestered as criminology. Urban science was about concentric circles, demography, and exotic street corner life. I yearned for the developers, the fixers, and the crooks – and their linkages with the more ordinary folks trying to make their way through the thicket. A lot of my life has been to follow up on that.

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