The Scarcity of Organizational Resources in High Poverty Neighborhoods

Mario L. Small, Princeton University
Monica McDermott, Stanford University

Sociologists have suggested that poor urban neighborhoods are deprived of the important organizational resources the middle class takes for granted, such as childcare centers, churches, hardware stores, and grocery stores. However, no major studies have tested this proposition. We test it among 331 PMSA/MSAs, employing a unique dataset containing Department of Commerce data on all businesses and organizations by zip code matched to the 2000 Census. We examine competing sets of hypotheses about three issues: whether the prevalence of one type of resource co-varies with that of others, whether the prevalence of resources declines as poverty increases, and whether it increases with foreign-born population. We find surprising co-variance in the presence of diverse types of resources. We also uncover that neighborhood poverty is significantly associated with increased resource prevalence, as is foreign-born population. We conclude by discussing limitations of the analysis and implications for the theoretical conception of poor neighborhoods.

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Presented in Session 77: Networks and Social Capital