This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee. Preface



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Air Pollution


Traffic congestion and the sheer amount of traffic in cities also contribute mightily to air pollution, which we consider here as a separate urban problem. Traffic creates pollution from motor vehicles’ exhaust systems, and some cities have factories and other enterprises that also pollute. As a result, air quality in cities is substandard.

This poor air quality has significant health consequences, as it produces higher rates of respiratory and heart disease and higher mortality rates in cities (Stylianou & Nicolich, 2009). [26] Because even fairly low levels of air pollution can have these health effects (Brunekreef, 2011), [27] cities are unhealthy places and even deadly places for many people.

Both to increase their “carbon footprint” and to get some exercise, many urban residents bicycle in traffic to and from work or bicycle during their leisure time. Ironically, doing so subjects them to air pollution from the traffic surrounding them. This pollution has been shown to impair their cardiovascular and respiratory functioning (Weichenthal et al., 2011). [28]

Because people of color disproportionately live in cities, urban air pollution affects them more than it affects white people. As Chapter 13 "Health and Health Care" noted, this disparity is part of the larger problem of environmental racism. Cities are bad in many ways for their residents, and the air pollution of cities is bad for the health of their residents, who are overwhelmingly people of color in many cities.

If urban residents in general suffer health consequences from air pollution, these consequences are particularly serious and more common among children. Air pollution increases their rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases (Patel et al., 2011). [29] These health problems in turn affect their school performance and can have other lifelong consequences.

Mental Health Problems


Our earlier discussions of crowding and of traffic congestion indicated that stress is one of the most important consequences of these two urban problems. Stress in turn impairs the mental health of urban residents. Much research finds that urban residents have worse mental health than rural residents. In particular, they have much higher levels of mood and anxiety disorders and of schizophrenia (Lederbogen et al., 2011). [30]

Public Education


Yet another issue for cities is the state of their public education. As Chapter 11 "Schools and Education" emphasized, many city schools are housed in old buildings that, like much city housing, are falling apart. City schools are notoriously underfunded and lack current textbooks, adequate science equipment, and other instructional materials.


People Making a Difference


Working to Achieve Social Justice

Nancy Radner has been a tireless advocate for the homeless and for social justice more generally. From 2006 to 2012, she served as the head of the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness, which works with eighty-four homeless service agencies and manages more than $50 million in state and federal funding for homeless services. The Alliance also gathers and distributes various kinds of information on homelessness and coordinates political, educational, and public relations events to increase understanding of homelessness.

Before joining the Chicago Alliance, Radner was a program officer at the Corporation for Supportive Housing, a national organization that engages in many kinds of efforts aimed at helping the homeless and other low-income individuals find affordable housing. She also served as a staff attorney at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, where she specialized in housing law.

In 2012, Radner left the Chicago Alliance for another social justice position when she joined the Ounce of Prevention Fund as director of Illinois policy. The Ounce, as this Illinois organization calls itself, advocates for early childhood education and other programs and policies aimed at helping low-income children.

Many people who receive a law degree from a top law school, as Radner did, take a job in a large law firm or with a large corporation and spend their careers helping the wealthy. Instead, Radner chose to use her legal knowledge to help achieve social justice for the poor. She once said of her efforts to end homelessness, “People call us starry-eyed dreamers. But I actually say we’re steely-eyed realists because ending homelessness is not hard. We know exactly how to do it. And what we’re trying to do is create the political will to get it fully done. We can’t prevent people from losing their housing. But what we can do is ensure that if that happens that there’s a system in place to get them out of homelessness really quickly.”

In working her entire career to help the poor and homeless, Nancy Radner has helped make a difference.



Sources: Kapos, 2012; Schorsch, 2010 [31]

Crime


When many people think about the disadvantages of city life, they probably think about crime, a problem mentioned several times already in this chapter. Their fears are well grounded. Simply put, cities have much higher rates of violent and property crime than do small towns or rural areas (see Figure 14.6 "Crime Rates in Large Cities and Rural Counties, 2010 (Number of Crimes per 100,000 Residents)"). For example, the violent crime rate (number of crimes per 100,000 residents) in 2010 was almost four times higher in the nation’s largest cities than in its rural counties, while the property crime rate was more than twice as high.

Figure 14.6 Crime Rates in Large Cities and Rural Counties, 2010 (Number of Crimes per 100,000 Residents)

http://images.flatworldknowledge.com/barkansoc/barkansoc-fig14_006.jpg

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2011). Crime in the United States, 2010. Washington, DC: Author.

Why are city crime rates much higher? Because crime rates take the number of people into account, the answer is not simply that cities have more people than rural areas. Nor is the answer simply that cities have higher poverty than rural areas, because rural areas in fact have higher poverty overall, as we discuss later in this chapter. Rather, an important answer is that cities have higher residential crowding (or higher population density) and also more household crowding, as we saw earlier.

Several reasons explain why higher residential crowding produces higher crime rates. Consider violent crime. For a violent crime to occur, it takes two people to tangle, so to speak. Criminals cannot kill, rob, or assault someone unless there is a “someone” to assault. In a city, there are many potential targets of violence all crowded together into a relatively small space, and thus many potential targets for criminals. In a rural area, potential targets are spread across miles, and a robber can go a long time without ever seeing a potential victim. Many assaults are also committed not by hardened criminals but by people (usually men) who get angry because of some perceived insult. In a city, there is a much greater chance for interaction to occur where someone might feel insulted, simply because there are so many people living within a small space and bars and other venues for them to congregate. A thousand people living on one city block are more likely to encounter each other than a thousand people living across thirty square miles in a rural area. Because there is more opportunity in a city for insults and other problems to occur that lead to violence, more violence occurs.

Cities also have more crowded households than rural areas, as we saw earlier, and these also make a difference for at least two reasons (Stark, 1987). [32]Crowded households are more stressful, and people who experience stress are more likely to be aggressive. Further, people (and perhaps especially young people) who live in crowded households often find they need to “get outside” to be away from the stress of the household and to have some “elbow room” and privacy. But once outside, they are that much more likely to interact with other people. Because, as we just noted, social interaction is a prerequisite for violence, household crowding indirectly contributes to violence for this reason.

Residential crowding and household crowding thus combine to produce higher crime rates in cities than in urban areas. City neighborhoods differ in their degree of both types of crowding, and those that have higher crowding rates should have higher crime rates, all else equal. In sociologist Rodney Stark’s (1987) [33] term, these neighborhoods are deviant places because their structural features, such as crowding, almost automatically contribute to higher crime rates regardless of who is living in these neighborhoods.

Another structural feature of cities helps to explain why they have a higher property crime rate than rural areas. Burglars obviously cannot burglarize a home unless there is a nearby home to burglarize. In cities, there are many homes to serve as potential targets for burglars; in rural areas, these homes are far and few between. Similarly, if someone wants to shoplift in a store or break into a store overnight, they can more easily do so in an urban area, where there are many stores, than in a rural area, where the landscape is filled with trees or fields rather than Walmarts or Best Buys.

Although Stark (1987) [34] coined the term deviant places to refer to urban neighborhoods that had certain features that contribute to high crime rates, his term can also refer to cities themselves. For the reasons just discussed, cities are inevitably much more likely than rural areas to be deviant places. The defining feature of a city—large numbers of people living in a small area—guarantees that cities will have higher crime rates than rural areas. Cities are deviant places precisely because they are cities.

KEY TAKEAWAYS


  • Major issues and problems confronting US cities today include those involving fiscal difficulties, crowding, housing, traffic, pollution, public education, and crime.

  • Several of these problems stem directly from the fact that cities involve large numbers of people living in a relatively small amount of space.



FOR YOUR REVIEW


  1. If you were to work for a mayor of a large city to help address one specific problem in that city, which problem would you prefer to work on? Why?

  2. Americans often seem to blame city residents for many of the problems affecting US cities today, including low academic achievement and rundown conditions in city schools and crime in the streets. Do you think it is fair to blame city residents for these problems, or are there other reasons for them? Explain your answer.

[1] McNichol, D. A. (2009, May 1). Revenue loss putting cities in fiscal vise. New York Times, p. NJ1.

[2] Knauss, T. (2012, January 26). Former Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch to advise Syracuse on finances, Mayor Stephanie Miner says. The Post-Standard. Retrieved fromhttp://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2012/01/former_lt_gov_richard_ravitch.html.

[3] Klepper, D. (2012, January 5). RI Gov., mayors say state must help cities now. The Boston Globe. Retrieved fromhttp://www.boston.com/news/local/rhode_island/articles/2012/01/05/ri_gov_mayors_say_state_must_help_cities_now.

[4] Oosting, J. (2012, January 30). Rep. Hansen Clarke talks with president on Air Force One, seeks emergency aid for Detroit. Mlive.com. Retrieved fromhttp://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2012/01/rep_hansen_clarke_talks_with_p.html.

[5] US Conference of Mayors. (2012, January 24). Statement by US Conference of Mayors president Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in reaction to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Retrived fromhttp://www.usmayors.org/pressreleases/uploads/2012/0124-statement-sotu.pdf.

[6] Ludwig, J., Sanbonmatsu, L., Gennetian, L., Adam, E., Duncan, G. J., Katz, L. F., et al. (2011). Neighborhoods, obesity, and diabetes—a randomized social experiment. New England Journal of Medicine, 365(16), 1509–1519; Stobbe, M. (2011, October 20). Decade-long study links living in low-income neighborhoods to poor health. The Boston Globe, p. A15.

[7] Regoeczi, W. C. (2008). Crowding in context: An examination of the differential responses of men and women to high-density living environments. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 49, 254–268.

[8] US Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2012). Affordable housing. Retrieved Janaury 31, 2012, from http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/affordablehousing.

[9] Massey, D. S., & Denton, N. A. (1993). American apartheid: Segregation and the making of the underclass. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

[10] Charles, C. Z. (2003). The dynamics of racial residential segregation. Annual Review of Sociology, 29, 167–207.

[11] Roberts, S. (2012, January 31). Study of census results finds that residential segregation is down sharply. New York Times, p. A13.

[12] Logan, J. R., & Stults, B. J. (2011). The persistence of segregation in the metropolis: New findings from the 2010 census. Retrieved fromhttp://www.s4.brown.edu/us2010/Data/Report/report2.pdf.

[13] Roberts, S. (2012, January 31). Study of census results finds that residential segregation is down sharply. New York Times, p. A13.

[14] Bassuk, E., Murphy, C., Coupe, N. T., Kenney, R. R., & Beach, C. A. (2011, September 6).America’s youngest outcasts 2010. Needham, MA: National Center on Family Homelessness; Eckholm, E. (2009). Surge in homeless pupils strains schools. New York Times, p. A1; Pelley, S. (2011, March 6). Homeless children: The hard times generation. CBSnews.com. Retrieved fromhttp://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/2003/2006/2060minutes/main20038927.shtml.

[15] Wenzel, S. L., Leake, B. D., & Gelberg, L. (2001). Risk factors for major violence among homeless women. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 16, 739–752.

[16] Lee, B. A., Tyler, K. A., & Wright, J. D. (2010). The new homelessness revisited. Annual Review of Sociology, 36, 501–521.

[17] Lee, B. A., Tyler, K. A., & Wright, J. D. (2010). The new homelessness revisited. Annual Review of Sociology, 36, 501–521.

[18] Lee, B. A., Tyler, K. A., & Wright, J. D. (2010). The new homelessness revisited. Annual Review of Sociology, 36, 501–521.

[19] Lee, B. A., Tyler, K. A., & Wright, J. D. (2010). The new homelessness revisited. Annual Review of Sociology, 36, 501–521.

[20] US Conference of Mayors. (2011). Hunger and homelessness survey: A status report on hunger and homelessness in America’s cities. Washington, DC: Author.

[21] Lee, B. A., Tyler, K. A., & Wright, J. D. (2010). The new homelessness revisited. Annual Review of Sociology, 36, 501–521.

[22] Rosenthal, E. (2011, June 27). Across Europe, irking drivers is urban policy. New York Times, A1.

[23] Greenfield, B. (2011, September 23). America’s most stressful cities. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/bethgreenfield/2011/09/23/americas-most-stressful-cities.

[24] Greenfield, B. (2011, September 23). America’s most stressful cities. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/bethgreenfield/2011/09/23/americas-most-stressful-cities.

[25] Schrank, D., Lomax, T., & Eisele, B. (2011). 2011 urban mobility report. College Station, TX: Texas Transportation Institute.

[26] Stylianou, M., & Nicolich, M. J. (2009). Cumulative effects and threshold levels in air pollution mortality: Data analysis of nine large US cities using the NMMAPS dataset.Environmental Pollution, 157, 2216–2213.

[27] Brunekreef, B. (2011). Air pollution and health: Evidence, thresholds, standards. Air Quality & Climate Change, 45(3), 35–37.

[28] Weichenthal, S., Kulka, R., Dubeau, A., Martin, C., Wang, D., & Dales, R. (2011). Traffic-related air pollution and acute changes in heart rate variability and respiratory function in urban cyclists. Environmental Health Perspectives, 119(10), 1373–1378.

[29] Patel, M. M., Quinn, J. W., Jung, K. H., Hoepner, L., Diaz, D., Perzanowski, M., et al. (2011). Traffic density and stationary sources of air pollution associated with wheeze, asthma, and immunoglobulin E from birth to age 5 years among New York City children.Environmental Research, 111(8), 1222–1229.

[30] Lederbogen, F., Kirsch, P., Haddad, L., Streit, F., Tost, H., Schuch, P., et al. (2011). City living and urban upbringing affect neural social stress processing in humans. Nature, 474(7352), 498–501.

[31] Kapos, S. (2012, January 31). Nancy Radner leaves poverty group’s top job to direct policy at Ounce of Prevention. Chicago Business. Retrieved fromhttp://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20120131/BLOGS03/120139929/nancy-radner-leaves-poverty-groups-top-job-to-direct-policy-at-ounce-of-prevention; Schorsch, K. (2010, October 17). Alliance sees a path to ending homelessness. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved fromhttp://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-10-17/news/ct-met-holiday-giving-chicago-allianc20101017_1_end-homelessness-nancy-radner- homeless-system.

[32] Stark, R. (1987). Deviant places: A theory of the ecology of crime. Criminology, 25, 893–911.

[33] Stark, R. (1987). Deviant places: A theory of the ecology of crime. Criminology, 25, 893–911.

[34] Stark, R. (1987). Deviant places: A theory of the ecology of crime. Criminology, 25, 893–911.


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