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Title: The Social Organization of Black Suburban Poverty: An Ethnographic Community Study
Authors: Murphy, Alexandra K
Advisors: Duneier, Mitchell
Contributors: Sociology Department
Keywords: African Americans
urban sociology
Subjects: Sociology
African American studies
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: As of the year 2000 the suburbs became home to the greatest share of the American poor. This marks a historical shift in the geography of U.S. poverty. To date, little is known about who the suburban poor are, what their lives are like, or the context in which they live. This ethnographic community study examines the everyday lives of the black suburban poor and the organizational and political life of the community that structures the suburban poor experience. Drawing on over three years of fieldwork conducted while living in Penn Hills, a Pittsburgh suburb experiencing rising poverty, I find that there are many features of a bedroom suburb that make it a fundamentally different place for the poor to live than most poor, black urban neighborhoods. Despite these neighborhood differences, however, daily life and the social situation of the suburban poor are more similar to the urban poor than different. This is because, I show, in suburbs like Penn Hills there are a set of mechanisms at work that reinforce and reproduce similar dynamics that structure the isolation, precariousness, stigmatization, and marginalization poor people and poor neighborhoods experience in cities. These mechanisms include the built environment, public transportation, the structure of neighborhood organization, the existing structure of local networks, the dearth of antipoverty organizations, and connections suburban institutions have to metropolitan-wide antipoverty apparatuses. These mechanisms operate within what I call an "ecology of scarcity." In this context, the capital that once built suburbs like Penn Hills is gone, replaced with limited individual and community resources at the same time that suburban need and decline is increased. I use six different examples, taken from different levels of the community, to illustrate how these suburban mechanisms unfold within this ecology of suburban scarcity in ways that reproduce the dispossession of the black poor in this new place.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Sociology

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