The Great Recession Washes Across the Desert: A Study of Neighborhood Organizational Resources and Social Disorganization in the Phoenix-Mesa Urbanized Area
Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 11:00 AM
The Great Recession (2008-09) impacted urban communities in the U.S. in many different ways. This paper focuses on the role of organizational resources in mitigating the impact of the recession on one metropolitan community, the Phoenix-Mesa metropolitan area. Our research questions are: did areas’ organizational resources mediate the effect of the Great Recession on neighborhood outcomes? From Wilson (1987), Small and McDermott (2006), and our own research we know that some neighborhoods in the metropolitan area have considerably more organizational resources than others. Logan (2012) labels this spatial inequality. Our hypothesis is that areas that had more organizational resources prior to the recession were better able to cope with the crisis than areas with fewer resources (Sampson, 2012). These intermediate structures enabled communities to absorb the shock and stay intact. People could turn to neighborhood establishments for social services, amenities, health care, religious support, and social support. The counter-argument is that this recession was so severe that it destroyed organizational resources that gave some areas advantages over others. The economic crisis not only undermined the capabilities of the household sector, it also destroyed establishments. It was truly an economic tsunami.
The units of analysis are 943 census tracts in the Phoenix-Mesa urbanized area and we use spatial econometric models. We examine data for 2003, 2007, 2008, and 2009 from the U.S. Census, Dun and Bradstreet, the Urban Institute, and phone directories. These data are collected and geocoded. The dependent variable is a composite measure of social disorganization: crime (homicides), poverty rates, school drop-out rates, and underweight births. The mediating variables are the number of youth serving organizations, schools, congregations, membership clubs, parks, and health care facilities in the census tracts. The independent variables are housing values, unemployment rates, and population change. Finally, we control for racial/ethnic composition and socioeconomic characteristics.