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Christine L. Williams, Chair CLA 3.306, Mailcode A1700, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-232-6300

Spring 2007

SOC 395J • Neighborhoods and Health

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
46515 TH
1:00 PM-4:00 PM
BUR 214

Course Description

In this class we examine the question of whether neighborhoods influence the health of residents, and if they do, why do they? Perhaps the most well-established finding in the study of social disparities in health is the association of health with socioeconomic status. Individuals with low socioeconomic status have worse health. Does low neighborhood socioeconomic status also impair the physical health of residents? Living in a disadvantaged neighborhood may damage health, over and above the impact of personal socioeconomic characteristics that limit residential options and concentrate socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals in certain neighborhoods. Residential areas characterized by high rates of poverty or low rates of college education or home ownership could add collective socioeconomic disadvantages to the personal ones of residents. Does neighborhood socioeconomic status affect the health of residents adjusting for their own socioeconomic status? This class will aim to develop working definitions of the general concept of collective socioeconomic status and its elements. Then our goal will be to develop and test theories of the pathways by which neighborhood conditions might be linked to health.

The goals of this class are 1) examine associations between health and neighborhood socioeconomic status and it's elements, 2) explain the associations, 3) succinctly explain the associations, narrowing down a larger number of disparate mechanisms to one or two core explanations, focusing on neighborhood disorder, 4) compare the results associated with neighborhood socioeconomic status to those associated with individual socioeconomic status, and 5) ask what characteristics of neighborhoods other than socioeconomic status might affect health. In doing so we will highlight differences in the impact of neighborhoods on mental health as compared with physical health, and see whether some groups are more or less vulnerable to disadvantaged conditions in their neighborhood.


Social Causes of Psychological Distress. Mirowsky and Ross. 2003. Aldine.


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