The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘neighborhoods’

Robert Sampson on the Situational Effects of Neighborhoods

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 5, 2011


Karen Sternheimer (USC) conducts an interview with Robert Sampson (Harvard) about neighborhood effects and his latest book, GREAT AMERICAN CITY (Chicago 2011).

From University of Chicago Press:

For over fifty years numerous public intellectuals and social theorists have insisted that community is dead. Some would have us believe that we act solely as individuals choosing our own fates regardless of our surroundings, while other theories place us at the mercy of global forces beyond our control. These two perspectives dominate contemporary views of society, but by rejecting the importance of place they are both deeply flawed. Based on one of the most ambitious studies in the history of social science, Great American City argues that communities still matter because life is decisively shaped by where you live.

To demonstrate the powerfully enduring impact of place, Robert J. Sampson presents here the fruits of over a decade’s research in Chicago combined with his own unique personal observations about life in the city, from Cabrini Green to Trump Tower and Millennium Park to the Robert Taylor Homes. He discovers that neighborhoods influence a remarkably wide variety of social phenomena, including crime, health, civic engagement, home foreclosures, teen births, altruism, leadership networks, and immigration. Even national crises cannot halt the impact of place, Sampson finds, as he analyzes the consequences of the Great Recession and its aftermath, bringing his magisterial study up to the fall of 2010.

Following in the influential tradition of the Chicago School of urban studies but updated for the twenty-first century, Great American City is at once a landmark research project, a commanding argument for a new theory of social life, and the story of an iconic city.

Related Situationist posts:

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The Stressful Situation of Disease

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 26, 2010

Here is a synopsis of a recent article, titled “Do neighbourhoods matter? Neighbourhood disorder and long-term trends in serum cortisol levels (published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health), by Patrick H. Ryan (for Environmental Health News):

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Children – especially African Americans – who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods have consistently low levels of the stress hormone cortisol, according to a study that examined children in Alabama.

Cortisol is an important stress hormone associated with good physical and mental health and well-being. The low levels of cortisol measured in the study were in children living in neighborhoods with high unemployment, poverty, female heads of households and vacant housing.

The study’s findings are significant because extended exposure to low cortisol levels may increase immune responses, leading to inflammation and the risk for some chronic childhood diseases. The results add more details to a growing number of reports that link exposure to chronic stressors – including noise, violence and poverty – to negative health effects, such as asthma.

The body’s mechanism for dealing with stress is one explanation for the links. When exposed to a stressful event, a hormonal signaling system called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis – or HPA axis – causes cortisol hormone to be released into the bloodstream. However, long-term chronic exposure to stress can disrupt the normal functioning of the HPA axis and result in an opposite reaction – lower than normal levels of cortisol.

In this study, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham recruited 148 African and European-America children about eight years of age. Children were seen up to five times during a period of nine years. At each study visit, cortisol was measured in the children’s blood samples. Unemployment, poverty, female-headed households with children and vacant houses were used to determine neighborhood environments. Researchers adjusted for differences, including age, weight, gender and other personal factors.

Overall, children who lived in disadvantaged neighborhoods had lower levels of cortisol. When the researchers looked closer at the role of race on the results, they found that the association between neighborhood and decreased cortisol was greatest in African-American children. The trend between disadvantaged neighborhoods and decreased cortisol was evident in European-American children, but was not as strong and could be due to chance. Gender did not appear to play a role in the levels of cortisol.

The results demonstrate that the physical environment in which children are raised plays an important role in their well-being. In addition, the measure of cortisol provides objective evidence of the body’s physiologic response to chronic stress, which has previously been shown to be associated with health effects including childhood asthma.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Depression,” “The Stressful Situation of Religious Zealotry,” “The Situational Consequences of Poverty on Brain,” The Interior Situation of Intergenerational Poverty,” Some Situational Effects of the BP Gulf Disaster,” “The Situation of Mental Illness,”Inequality and the Unequal Situation of Mental and Physical Health,” “The Situational Consequences of Uncertainty,” “The Disturbing Mental Health Situation of Returning Soldiers,” The Toll of Discrimination on Black Women,” The Physical Pains of Discrimination,” The Depressing Effects of Racial Discrimination,” and The Cognitive Costs of Interracial Interactions.”

A new blog and website, Upstream, provides daily posts and regular interviews with scientists about environmental causes of disease.

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