The 2021 Jane Addams Article Award was awarded to Josh Pacewicz and John N. Robinson III for their article “Pocketbook Policing: How Race Shapes Municipal Reliance on Punitive Fines and Fees in the Chicago Suburbs.” Published in Socio-Economic Review in 2021, this article draws on both quantitative and qualitative methods to show how municipal reliance on fines and fees varies across race and class lines in the Chicago suburbs. Josh Pacewicz is Associate Professor of Sociology at Brown University, John N. Robinson III is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Princeton University. Andrew Messamore and Benny Witkovsky reached out to John and Josh to discuss their article and an abridged version of that discussion is below. Thanks to John and Josh for participating in our interview series!
Let’s start by talking about this paper. What did you seek to find? What did you ultimately find?
Robinson: We originally wanted to take an exploratory look at the problem of fines and fees, which had become a big topic of dialogue in the aftermath of Ferguson. Once we got into the data, we saw that these monetary punishments were concentrated in many Black suburbs, and especially relatively affluent ones. For context, the financial penalties that we found in these communities (mostly traffic fines, but also things like fines for overgrown weeds) differed from those we would find in much poorer areas (see, for example, Alexes Harris’ pathbreaking work, which focuses on the penalties associated with criminal prosecution). The racialized effect of fines and fees in the lives of poor households and communities is more dramatic and impactful over the long-term. But our findings on these relatively affluent Black areas show that these communities are in some ways more like poorer Black communities than their affluent white counterparts. Importantly, we also found that the places dealing with these penalties also suffered a range of other issues that white affluent communities didn’t, including exorbitantly high property taxes, exploitative tax incentive schemes, deficient public services, etc.
The book’s argument is that the spatial transformation of Manila is worsening class relations and widening the political divide. Specifically, I document the proliferation of poor and upper-class areas—slums and enclaves—across the city and their sharper segregation. I then describe the fraught relations between the residents of these places and argue that segregation—specifically, their proximity to one another—has made their relations worse. Slum residents more frequently experience discrimination, while enclave residents feel insecure about the presence of squatters nearby. I then consider the political views of each group, particularly with respect to the populist president Joseph Estrada. Not only do they tend to see Estrada in polar opposite ways, but their views are substantially informed by their feelings of discrimination and insecurity—that is, by their class positions. Broadly speaking, the books’ argument represents an effort to connect space, class, and politics, or rather, to show how these domains are more continuous than we like to think. Indeed, we should think about them together, as bound up in the same processes. And so while The Patchwork City is a work of urban sociology, it is also, equally, a work of political sociology. It adopts a view of social class as taking shape through spatial segregation (as well as shaping it, of course), and of political subjectivity as being shaped by class relations. Thus, as the city is transformed by global processes, so are social relations and contentious politics.
George (Chip) Greenidge, Jr., a Ph.D. Candidate at Georgia State University, was the winner of the 2021 Publicly Engaged Scholar Award. George is a scholar-activist whose commitments span non-profit work, government service, philanthropy, and education. Recently, he was President of the Boston Empowerment Zone, a federally funded HUD initiative aimed at economic investment in U.S. urban neighborhoods, and the Founder and Executive Director of the National Black College Alliance, Inc., a nonprofit focused on providing alumni mentors to college and high school students. Currently, George is also the Founder and Director of the Greatest MINDS, an organization which aims to promote public discourse, citizenship and inclusive democracy. He is also a Visiting Democracy Fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School. Benny Witkovsky and Andrew Messamore reached out to George to discuss his career. Thanks to George for agreeing to participate in our interview!
Stefanie A. DeLuca, James Coleman Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at Johns Hopkins University, is one of 2021’s Publicly Engaged Scholar awardees. Over the course of her career, Stefanie has worked closely with local, state, and federal policymakers to enact meaningful change in the domains of housing accessibility and racial desegregation. Her dedication to publicly-engaged research is reflected in her service to several HUD federal housing commissions in addition to local community and non-profit agencies. More broadly, Stefanie’s scholarship has positively impacted countless households by shaping federal legislation on housing vouchers as well as local housing mobility programs across the country. Thalia Tom reached out to her to discuss her research, and we’re including her responses below. Thanks to Stefanie for participating in our interview series!
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!
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.
H. Jacob Carlson, a postdoctoral scholar at the Population Studies and Training Center at Brown University, was the winner of the 2020 Graduate Student Paper Award. Jake’s innovative research agenda leverages the urban and political sociological traditions to address new questions about democracy, housing, and changing cities. We reached out to ask him to discuss his research, and we’re including his responses below. Thanks to Jake for participating in our interview series!
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.
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.