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social area analysis

  A theory and technique developed by two American sociologists, Eshref Shevky and Wendell Bell (1955), linking changing urban social structure and residential patterns to economic development and urbanization processes (which they termed the \'increasing scale\' of society).

According to Shevky and Bell, increasing scale involves three interrelated trends:

{img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } Changes in the range and intensity of social relations produced by a greater division of labour, as reflected in the distribution of skills and their rewards within society — Shevky identified this trend with the construct that he termed \'social rank\', though Bell preferred the term \'economic status\'; {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } An increasing differentiation of functions within society and its constituent households, which generates new lifestyles and household forms — a construct Shevky termed \'urbanization\' and Bell \'family status\'; and {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } The concentration of people from different cultural backgrounds in cities — producing \'segregation\' for Shevky and \'ethnic status\' for Bell.This theory of changing urban society was linked to residential differentiation within urban areas although, as critics pointed out (e.g. Timms, 1971), the link was far from clear. Shevky and Bell\'s empirical work identified three dimensions to the residential differentiation of Los Angeles and San Francisco which were consistent with the three trends, though their statistical procedures involved selecting variables to represent the three, suggesting that the theory may have been \'invented\' inductively to account for their empirical mapping rather than as the source for a study of district socio-economic differences.

Shevky and Bell\'s technique for analysing urban residential differentiation used us census tract data. Variables were selected to represent the three constructs — occupation and schooling for social rank; fertility, women at work and households in single-family dwelling units for urbanization; and population in certain ethnic and immigrant groups for segregation. These were combined to produce three standardized indices, and used to create residential area categories — such as high social rank, high urbanization, and low segregation (i.e. tracts with many well-educated, white-collar workers living in apartments with low fertility levels and many adult women employed in the workforce, and with few members of ethnic groups).

Further work by Bell tested the validity of the constructs in other cities and used the classification as a sampling framework for investigating differences in social behaviour within cities (see Johnston, 1971). The technique was largely replaced by the more technically sophisticated inductive procedure of factorial ecology, and the absence of a clear theoretical base meant that this initial stimulus to work in urban geography soon became little more than an important historical reference. (RJJ)

References Johnston, R.J. 1971: Urban residential patterns: an introductory review. London: George Bell and Sons. Shevky, E. and Bell, W. 1955: Social area analysis: theory, illustrative application and computational procedures. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Timms, D.W.G. 1971: The urban mosaic: towards a theory of residential differentiation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



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Other Terms : components of change | intervening opportunities | normal distribution
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