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Integrating Demographic and Cultural Approaches in the Examination of Neighborhood Change

What does gentrification look like? While neighborhood change is often quantified using demographic indicators, symbolic and cultural indicators also signal ongoing transitions. The present study asks whether demographic measures of change map onto observations on the ground. In addition, the study seeks to unpack the underlying meanings of symbolic changes occurring at the neighborhood level, particularly the retail environment.

Using data from the Neighborhood Change Database and traditional demographic indicators such as race, socioeconomic status, and stability, I identified tracts undergoing neighborhood change in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and New York. I then selected neighborhoods within each of these cities and photographed major retail streets, repeating the process two years later to track any changes that occurred.

Research assistants will work on a variety of tasks, including:
- Content analysis of photographs
- Organizing and creating a relational database of over 5,000 digital photographs
- Building a website to disseminate these photographs
- Creating maps in ArcGIS (prior experience preferred but willing to teach)
- Identifying relevant academic literature
- Acquiring additional supplementary data using Google Streetview

While the primary data has already been collected for this project, undergraduate researchers will develop skills in methods of visual sociology and qualitative data analysis. In addition, researchers will also gain experience managing a unique data set. Based on interest, students may have the opportunity to conduct additional fieldwork in Detroit using documentary photographic methods and/or assist with the development of a business database in Detroit.

Supervising Faculty Member: Jeffrey Morenoff
Graduate Student: Nelson Saldaña
Contact information: Interested applicants should e-mail Nelson at with the subject line: SURO in Urban Sociology. Include in the e-mail a brief statement about why you’re interested in the position, your learning goals and objectives, your resume, or any questions you may have.

Average hours of work per week: Flexible (depending on number of research assistants), 6-12 hours per week
Range of credit hours students can earn: 2-4
Number of positions available: 1 or 2