Date of Award

Fall 11-8-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Lesley Reid

Second Advisor

Erin Ruel

Third Advisor

Donald C. Reitzes

Abstract

Nationwide, housing authorities demolish public housing communities and relocate the existing residents in an attempt to create more favorable neighborhood environments and to promote safer and more efficacious social interactions for public housing residents. Yet, studies of public housing relocation do not find strong evidence of beneficial social interaction occurring between relocated residents and new neighbors. Despite increased safety and relative increase in neighborhood economic standing, studies find relocated residents socialize outside of their new neighborhoods or else limit existing neighborhood interactions as compared to living in public housing communities. This raises the question of why relocated residents either do or do not choose to interact with their new neighbors within their new residential settings. In an effort to answer this question, I have conducted a study focused on neighborhood social interactions using public housing residents relocated from six of Atlanta, Georgia’s public housing communities.

As a backdrop to the study, I present relevant literature concerning both the study of neighborhoods and the study of prior relocation endeavors. I argue that neighborhoods do provide important social landscapes for attempting to benefit public housing residents, though more research and a different framework of analysis are needed in order to manifest theorized outcomes of relocation for all residents involved. I then employ the use of both quantitative survey data from 248 relocated residents and qualitative in-depth interview data from 40 relocated residents to provide further insight into social interaction patterns after relocation from Atlanta’s public housing. This research finds that prior to relocation residents in public housing communities differed in terms of their ideal zones of action and preferred levels of inclusion and engagement in the neighborhood setting and in terms of their surrounding community scene. By examining these different ideal-types of residents in detail, I argue that prior to moving the residents, a better fit between resident and neighborhood can be constructed by housing authorities such that more beneficial social interaction outcomes can be achieved overall in the relocation process.

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