Neighborhood and Network Disadvantage among Urban Renters

Matthew Desmond, Weihua An

Sociological Science, June 24, 2015
DOI 10.15195/v2.a16

Drawing on novel survey data, this study maps the distribution of neighborhood and network disadvantage in a population of Milwaukee renters and evaluates the relationship between each disadvantage and multiple social and health outcomes. We find that many families live in neighborhoods with above average disadvantage but are embedded in networks with below average disadvantage, and vice versa. Neighborhood (but not network) disadvantage is associated with lower levels of neighborly trust but also with higher levels of community support (e.g., providing neighbors with food). Network (but not neighborhood) disadvantage is associated with lower levels of civic engagement. Asthma and diabetes are associated exclusively with neighborhood disadvantage, but depression is associated exclusively with network disadvantage. These findings imply that some social problems may be better addressed by neighborhood interventions and others by network interventions.
Matthew Desmond: Department of Sociology and Social Studies, Harvard University.  Email:

Weihua An: Department of Sociology and Statistics, Indiana University.

Acknowledgements: Supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, through its “How Housing Matters” initiative, and the Harvard Society of Fellows. Deborah De Laurell, Carl Gershenson, Barbara Kiviat, Kristin Perkins, Tracey Shollenberger, Adam Slez, Van Tran, and the Sociological Science editors provided helpful comments on earlier drafts.

  • Citation: Desmond, Matthew, and Weihua An. 2015. “Neighborhood and Network Disadvantage among Urban Renters.” Sociological Science 2: 329-350
  • Received: January 15, 2015
  • Accepted: March 6, 2015
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Kim Weeden
  • DOI: 10.15195/v2.a16

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