Urban, Community and Spatial Sociology

Urban and community sociology thrives at Penn State, thanks to a critical mass of faculty scholars who view places as meaningful, dynamic settings for social life. Examples of place-related topics studied by our faculty include racial/ethnic residential segregation and diversity, neighborhood change, contextual effects (on crime, health, education, and the like), community growth and development, urbanization, immigrant settlement patterns, local ties (interpersonal networks, place attachments, etc.), and urban and rural poverty. Many of these topics are examined at different geographic scales, ranging from the neighborhood to the metropolis and beyond. Although North America remains the primary focus, some faculty investigate urban and community phenomena in other regions of the world.

Students specializing in this area benefit from close mentoring, and they regularly collaborate with faculty and each other on projects leading to publication. They also take advantage of a variety of seminars (see list below) and training opportunities at Penn State (in spatial analysis, multilevel models, and demography, for instance) that strengthen their knowledge and skill base. The job placement record among urban and community students has been excellent, with recent Ph.D. alumni pursuing careers in research universities, teaching-oriented institutions, and government agencies.

Questions Our Faculty and Graduate Students Are Asking About Neighborhoods and Communities

  • What are the causes and consequences of neighborhood and community inequality?
  • How is diversity affecting American communities?
  • Why do urban poverty and homelessness persist?
  • What are the local implications of global population, climate, and environmental change?