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There Goes the Neighborhood: Racial, Ethnic, and Class Tensions in Four Chicago Neighborhoods and Their Meaning for America

3.4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0394579368
ISBN-10: 0394579364
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sociologists Wilson of Harvard (When Work Disappears) and Taub of the University of Chicago analyze four working- and lower-middle-class Chicago neighborhoods to assess why some reach the "tipping point" of rapid ethnic change. Based on research conducted from 1993 to 1995, the conclusions remain timely. In the predominantly white "Beltway," civic-minded residents maintained community solidarity. In "Dover," a mixed-ethnic community with an influx of Mexican-Americans, white members of existing associations made no attempt at outreach, and the churches remained ethnically divided. Whites and Latinos united only regarding schools—though fueled by anti-black sentiment. The largely Mexican (and transient) "Archer Park" had weak civic institutions, as kinship ties remained most important. "Groveland," a mostly African-American community, remained stable; residents—many of whom held civil service or unionized jobs—expressed greater racial tolerance than elsewhere. The authors' conclusion: the stronger neighborhood social organizations are, the longer it takes a neighborhood to "tip." To better manage change, diverse communities must join in common goals, such as improving the schools. The unresolved shadow over all this is society's unwillingness to repair inner-city ghettos, since their presence heightens racial and class tensions in nearby neighborhoods. Author tour.(Oct. 23)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Improving conditions in America’s urban neighborhoods will require a deeper understanding of the complex dynamics that divide residents along racial, ethnic and class lines.  This compelling and exhaustively researched book makes an invaluable contribution to that endeavor.  The focus is on Chicago, but policymakers and concerned citizens from every city in America will learn a great deal from Wilson and Taub’s work.”

–Former Senator John Edwards

“[There Goes the Neighborhood] does what few books about race relations and class structure do–it offers a dispassionate analysis of the facts, not what we might hope for, but what is. Wilson & Taub bring the best of social science to bear on these issues; their call is for each of us to face up to what these facts mean for our country and for each of as citizens.”

–Former Senator Bill Bradley

“A powerful sociological study of how the steady influx of Latinos are changing urban neighborhood dynamics and the black-white divide.  A major piece of scholarship.  It should be read by all those concerned with immigration and America's urban, multiethnic future.”

–Lawrence D. Bobo, Martin Luther King Jr. Centennial Professor and Director, Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity and Program in African and African American Studies, Stanford University

“Writing in the tradition of the ‘Chicago School,’ two leading students of the city show how ethnic and racial change is not an inevitable linear process. [The book shows how] white, black, and Latino working class neighborhoods are shaped primarily by the character of local social organization and the larger context of public policy. Absorbing and thought-provoking.”

–Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History at Columbia University and the author of When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America

“An important and disturbing ethnographic report on Chicago’s ethnic neighborhoods that powerfully speaks to the racial divide in this country. Wilson and Taub and their innovative researchers have put their finger on the deep-seated racial attitudes that continue to divide urban America, illuminating the challenges we still face half a century after the start of the civil rights movement. This work makes important contributions to our understanding of the issues and possible solutions to the elusive goal of racial peace, comity, and mutual respect. It should be widely read.”

–Elijah Anderson, author, Code of the Street

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (October 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394579364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394579368
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,127,071 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Aside from the irritating and unnecessary practice of using fake names for the neighborhoods explored (a basic knowledge of Chicago and access to Wikipedia makes it easy to figure out which neighborhoods they are), this is a solid ethnographic exploration of race and class in four very different South and Southwest Side Chicago neighborhoods. The researchers participated intensively in neighborhood life and are able to reveal the consistently racist (sometimes shockingly so) attitudes that whites and Latinos carry around with them. The field work was done from 1993 to 1995 - not during the racial upheavals of the '60s and '70s - so it's sobering to see that naked racism is alive and well in one of the most segregated cities in the country.

The authors' analysis of the problems is much weaker. They do a good job comparing the varying degrees of racial tension among the neighborhoods and finding explanations for this variation in both the racially-structured competition over resources and the very American confusion of racial difference with class inequality. Yet they don't go deeper into the social structures that actually create these dilemmas.

They regard competitive racial identities and the existence of class as almost forces of nature that can never be eliminated, and their prescriptions are therefore remarkably timid: increase federal funding for city programs and try to convince privileged urban and suburban citizens that extending aid to the poor will help the metropolitan area as a whole economically and socially.

This may be an attractive agenda to the policymakers who see nothing fundamentally wrong with the severe inequalities and social tensions produced by a racially stratified neoliberal capitalism. But to those who believe that breaking down racial boundaries and ending class divisions are both possible and urgent tasks, a more ambitious program will be necessary.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think this is a rather weak ethnography which is a surprise given that it's written by two fine sociologists. The book reads like it was rushed to get to print because it's a very shallow analysis of race and class issues in an American city. I didn't really learn much about the neighborhoods other than the old white people and some of the Latinos in these neighborhoods are incredibly racist (which we already know because it's Chicago). I lived in many neighborhoods in Chicago that are similar to Little Village and Brighton Park and they're really not that bad at all! They were vibrant communities that didn't have that much crime, vandalism, and litter. In addition, Avalon Park in the 1990s was a very upscale Black neighborhood. I think lately it's facing some challenges in that middle class AA's are moving to the south suburbs of Chicago like Plainfield. The authors do not do enough to challenge the racist and classist views of the close-minded and uneducated residents. They make it seem like the residents' views are based in objective reality which clearly they are not. The white residents of Clearing are mad mainly because they do not like change. The Hispanic residents moving to Clearing are actually wealthier than the existing white residents and actually keep their homes and gardens up nicer, but the latter are simply grumpy because they don't like hearing Spanish being spoken or Mexican music. Overall, if you want a much better social science book on Chicago read "Great American City" by Robert Sampson. Finally, I thought the segments on schools were also rather shallow. Not much analysis. If you want a great book on school balance and integration read "Hope and Despair in the American City" by Gerald Grant.
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Format: Hardcover
The authors gathered results of information collected by researchers in four Chicago area neighborhoods over the past many years. Unfortunately, the outcome is a rather surface descriptive of racial and ethnic and class interaction among Black, Hispanic and White populations. There are several simple PowerPoint-like graphs comparing sizes of ethnic populations; but, beyond that, important statistics are few, relevant quotes from residents and officials are wanting...and actual differences between the neighborhoods are sketchy at best. Although Wilson and Taub do describe relevant differences about four outlying sections of the city (which are miles apart), a dry "sameness" pervades each of the chapters on each of the neighborhoods.

Maybe it's that I'm Chicago-familiar, but I was invariably wondering why the real names of the neighborhoods had to be hidden for this book. As I read, I often tried to figure out exactly where each of the places were/are as there are no such neighborhoods as "Beltway," "Dover," "Archer Park," "Groveland." The authors alert readers to the name-changes; yet, they don't say why this might have been necessary in a serious book of this sort. "Racial, Ethnic and Class Tensions" explained? -More like "described." --Not a bad work. I learned a few things but expected much more detail in what was an overly compact, quick read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A+: Fast delivery. I would order from them again. The book was just as described - and a great read for class!
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Format: Hardcover
After figuring out the names of the real neighborhoods from the census data (which I thought was unnecessary to hide there names, so here they are: Beltway = Clearing, Dover = Brighton Park, Archer Park = Little Village, and Groveland = Avalon Park), I thought the descriptions the tensions in the neighborhood were fairly accurate and unbiased. The authors' analysis and conclusions, however, lacked insight. They also unnecessarily ranted on the Bush Administration. Their prescription for integrating neighborhoods was basically form multiracial coalitions and throw a ton of Federal money at the problem. Overall, I'm excited that these parts of Chicago are being investigated but unimpressed by the level of scholarship.
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