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Eberly News Blog

8 Mar

Urban residential integration is often fleeting—a brief snapshot that belies a complex process of racial turnover in many U.S. cities. “White Flight/Black Flight: The Dynamics of Racial Change in an American Neighborhood,” by Rachael A. Woldoff, associate professor of sociology at West Virginia University, takes readers inside a neighborhood that has shifted rapidly and dramatically in racial composition over the last two decades.

Woldoff’s book has been recognized by the Urban Affairs Association (UAA) with the 2013 Best Book in Urban Affairs Award. The award is given biannually (every other year) for the best book in the field of urban affairs/urban studies. The purpose of the award is to encourage high-quality research on urban issues and reward cogent writing on urban affairs. The award will be presented to Woldoff on April 5 at the UAA National Conference in San Francisco, Calif.

Previous years’ winners of the UAA Best Book in Urban Affairs Award include Lance Freeman of Columbia University for “There Goes the ‘Hood: View of Gentrification from the Ground Up,” Lawrence Vale of MIT for “From the Puritans to the Projects: Public Housing and Public Neighbors” and Eric Klinenberg of New York University for “Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago.”

“Dr. Woldoff’s scholarship on race and ethnicity and urban affairs is top-notch, and we are pleased to see that her good work is receiving recognition,” Dean Robert Jones said. “Scholars and the general public will find her book accessible and rich in detail and insight.”

“White Flight/Black Flight” presents a portrait of the life of a working-class neighborhood in the aftermath of white flight, illustrating cultural clashes that accompany racial change as well as common values that transcend race, from the perspectives of three different groups who are living it: white stayers, black pioneers and “second-wave” blacks.

Woldoff offers a fresh look at race and neighborhoods by documenting a two-stage process of neighborhood transition and focusing on the perspectives of two understudied groups: newly arriving black residents and whites who have stayed in the neighborhood. She describes the period of transition when white residents still remain, though in diminishing numbers, and a second, less discussed stage of racial change: black flight. She reveals what happens after white flight is complete: “Pioneer” blacks, the first wave to integrate the neighborhood, flee to other neighborhoods or else adjust to their new segregated residential environment by coping with the loss of relationships with their longer-term white neighbors, signs of community decline and conflicts with the incoming second wave of black neighbors.

Readers will find several surprising and compelling twists to the white flight story related to positive relations between elderly stayers and the striving pioneers, conflict among black residents and differences in cultural understandings of what constitutes crime and disorder.

“I am honored that my book is being recognized by my peers. I look forward to having more discussions with readers about the residents of this neighborhood and the memorable stories they shared with me. This book offers optimism about the potential cross-racial relationships that evolve when communities integrate, but also explains the ways in which race continues to negatively affect residential outcomes for African Americans,” Woldoff said.

Rachael A. Woldoff received an M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from The Ohio State University, specializing in crime and community. She has a long-standing interest in race/ethnicity and urban sociology, especially neighborhood life in African American and white communities. Her past work includes studies of racial/ethnic differences in the effects of individuals’ wealth on their neighborhood characteristics. She has also published on the topics of fear of crime, “snitching,” the role of crime in father’s lives with their children and black students’ adjustment to rural, white universities.

Her work has appeared in Social Forces, Urban Affairs Review and Urban Studies. Her coauthored book, “High Stakes: Big Time Sports and Downtown Redevelopment,” investigates sports facilities as a form of urban redevelopment. Her upcoming book is about the struggle for middle-class housing in Manhattan.
For more information, contact Rachael A. Woldoff at (304) 293-8831 or via e-mail at rachael.woldoff@mail.wvu.edu.

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