Sociology faculty and students working in the Urban, Community and Environment field use different theories and methods to understand a wide variety of social, political and economic issues arising from the interactions of people and place. Research in this field addresses how the physical environment (neighborhoods, inner cities, suburbs, metropolitan areas and regions, as well as water, air and other species) influences and affects social behavior (such as residential patterns, health outcomes and concentrated poverty). In addition, faculty in this field investigate complex issues associated with urban growth and decline, migration and demographic changes, environmental sustainability and smart growth.
The uneven development of cities, suburbs and metropolitan areas has produced opportunities and constraints for their residents, in terms of education, health, safety, wealth and poverty, and employment. Researchers in this area examine the political, economic, cultural and social factors that drive growth and decline of neighborhoods, cities and regions, such as racial and class segregation and diversity, and urban policies and flows of capital that foster disinvestment and gentrification.
Faculty in this area study social interactions between places and people. The social organization of communities, neighborhoods and other places shapes the lifestyles and experiences of residents, visitors and other users. The social, cultural, economic and political attributes of place have the power to influence a wide range of health, educational, poverty and environmental outcomes for social groups. In turn, the social composition (demography) and changes (immigration, displacement) of populations shape and transform the physical environment and the identity of place.
Faculty in this area investigate relationships between societies and their environment. These may include, for example, the social drivers of climate change, humans’ relationships with other species, or the sociological causes and consequences of the uneven distribution of environmental costs (exposure to toxins, pollution) and benefits (parks, leisure spaces). Faculty also study how social movements, new technologies, and political alliances seek to ensure more sustainable cities and regions, enhanced justice, and better living conditions for those disproportionally affected by environmental problems.