In his book, Great American City, sociologist Robert Sampson argues that, while the effects of macro factors like poverty and political neglect on individual lives are well-documented, other local mechanisms matter too. It’s important, then, to think about the constitution of neighborhoods.
Along these lines, he argues, even if a community is economically- and socially-marginalized, an existing neighborhood organizations can make a big difference. He takes natural disasters as a case study. A neighborhood organization can spread the news of an impending disaster, establish leadership, and organize assistance before, during, and after a crisis. In this way, Sampson brings together micro, meso, and macro forces shaping the impact of disaster.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.