Neighborhood reputations as symbolic and stratifying mechanisms in the urban hierarchy

Megan Evans, Barrett A. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Neighborhood effects research continues to advance sociological understanding of inequality. Here, we consider a complementary but lower profile body of work. Since 2000, scholars have shown increasing interest in neighborhood reputations, socially constructed place identities that reflect the relative position of neighborhoods in the urban status hierarchy. These reputations, which emerge from multiple sources, are correlated most consistently with an area's racial and socioeconomic composition. Evidence suggests that stigmatized neighborhoods and their inhabitants experience a range of negative consequences. Prestigious neighborhood reputations may be aspirational, guiding households' preferences and influencing the residential selection process in a manner that reinforces existing disparities. Although reputations can change, they appear to do so incrementally because of their cumulative nature. A key challenge for future research is to demonstrate that neighborhood reputations are “real” rather than epiphenomenal, having significance beyond the objective characteristics of the places they represent. Resolving this issue will require finer alignment between reputation measurement and conceptualization, and more analysis of the extent of agreement needed among people's neighborhood perceptions for a reputation to exist. Longitudinal data on many neighborhoods, coupled with historical case studies, could illuminate the dynamics of reputations and help us better evaluate their presumed causes and effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalSociology Compass
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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