Research · Teaching · Social Change
In 1899, a young, Harvard-trained sociologist named W.E.B. DuBois published The Philadelphia Negro, a classic sociological analysis of the Seventh Ward, a vibrant African American community in what is now Center City. Over a century ago, DuBois demonstrated the value in documenting and surveying social life in Philadelphia.
Today, Philadelphia is the sixth largest metropolitan area in the United States, containing any and every social phenomena of interest to anyone with a sociological imagination. It is a particularly good laboratory for studying uneven development where resources like schools, housing, and employment are unevenly spread out over the region.
Our city abounds with inequality and is divided between the very rich and the very poor. Philadelphia has long been home for racial and ethnic minorities; it has one of the oldest African American communities as well as a long standing Puerto Rican community. It is also home to large numbers of Irish and Italian Americans.
Philadelphia is changing as well. It is now attracting immigrants from all over the world, adding a rich diversity that includes different languages as well as cuisine. Philadelphia is well respected as a welcoming home for gay and lesbian people and this population continues to grow. Many neighborhoods, particularly those close to the downtown center city area, are gentrifying and are changing from low income to high income residents.
Many of Philadelphia's neighborhoods also suffer from problems of disinvestment, abandonment, poverty, large scale unemployment and poor quality schools. Philadelphia's wide range of problems, the diversity of its population, and its size make it an ideal place to study sociology.
Understanding these issues and finding solutions needs a wide lens. Issues such as population change, poverty, unemployment, school quality, transportation, land use, economic development, water supplies, trash, and housing resonate throughout metropolitan regions and dealing with them is often beyond the capacity of individual municipalities. With more than 370 municipalities, the Philadelphia metropolitan region typifies the political, economic, and social fragmentation of metropolitan areas and which complicates efforts to find common policy solutions. Yet this complexity offers extraordinarily rich opportunities for research.
For more information about the city of Philadelphia and its metropolitan area, please visit our page featuring links about the city and region.