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Villa Victoria

The Transformation of Social Capital in a Boston Barrio

Villa Victoria

The Transformation of Social Capital in a Boston Barrio

For decades now, scholars and politicians alike have argued that the concentration of poverty in city housing projects would produce distrust, alienation, apathy, and social isolation—the disappearance of what sociologists call social capital. But relatively few have examined precisely how such poverty affects social capital or have considered for what reasons living in a poor neighborhood results in such undesirable effects.

This book examines a neglected Puerto Rican enclave in Boston to consider the pros and cons of social scientific thinking about the true nature of ghettos in America. Mario Luis Small dismantles the theory that poor urban neighborhoods are inevitably deprived of social capital. He shows that the conditions specified in this theory are vaguely defined and variable among poor communities. According to Small, structural conditions such as unemployment or a failed system of familial relations must be acknowledged as affecting the urban poor, but individual motivations and the importance of timing must be considered as well.

Brimming with fresh theoretical insights, Villa Victoria is an elegant work of sociology that will be essential to students of urban poverty.

246 pages | 1 map, 1 line drawing, 2 figures, 6 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2004

Economics and Business: Economics--Urban and Regional

Law and Legal Studies: General Legal Studies

Sociology: Race, Ethnic, and Minority Relations, Social Change, Social Movements, Political Sociology, Urban and Rural Sociology


"This sociological study challenges much of the traditional wisdom about the dynamics of ghetto life. . . . Small’s lucid explanations for the apparent discrepancies between theory and reality that occurred in this study justify his subsequent call for a rethinking of the variables associated with poverty and how they interact, and the importance of examining neighborhoods of concentrated poverty individually."

Library Journal

Villa Victoria is the finest example of how ethnographic material can be mobilized to correct, refine, and reframe top-down, policy-driven research. . . . If the current fashion continues, more ethnographers will drop conventional longitudinal research designs for interview studies and snapshot portraits of individuals and families, all in the service of policy formulation. In their noble pursuit, they will certainly benefit from reading Villa Victoria.”

Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh | American Journal of Sociology

"This study is strong both in its characterisation of the local residents . . . and its rigorous analysis of theory (and weaving the two together)."

John Crotty | Urban Studies Journal

Table of Contents

1. How Does Neighborhood Poverty Affect Social Capital?
2. Villa Victoria and Boston’s South End
3. The Rise and Decline of Local Participation, Part 1: Social Organization Theory
4. The Rise and Decline of Local Participation, Part 2: Cohorts and Collective Narratives
5. The Ecology of Group Differentiation
6. Social Capital and the Spatialization of Resources
7. A Labyrinth of Loyalties
8. Social Capital in Poor Neighborhoods


Society for the Study of Social Problems: C. Wright Mills Award

ASA Culture Section: Mary Douglas Prize
Honorable Mention

Eastern Sociological Society: Mirra Komarovsky Book Award
Honorable Mention

ASA Community and Urban Sociology Section: Robert E. Park Award

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