Politics and Community: Chicago's Near West Side Black Underclass

David Wilson, Jeremy Browning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The black underclass are one population group that has recently experienced a devastating decay of their built environment. This article examines the attitudes and political response of the black underclass to this process. Our focus on Chicago's Near West Side probes resident perceptions of the problem, resident mobilization around political agendas, leader actions at public forums, and levels of institutionalized obstacles to effective leader participation. The results suggest that this population had little opportunity to reverse this decay. Obstacles to controlling neighborhood change were embedded in everyday social life, communicative discourses, community institutional actions, and local government policy. While formal political procedures prevented this group's meaningful public participation, underclass social life ravaged their incentives to participate. We conclude that opening up community development to the black underclass requires restructuring the game's rules and this group's impoverished condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-66
Number of pages14
JournalTijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Economics and Econometrics


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