Social Indicators Research

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 201–223 | Cite as

Modeling urbanism: Economic, social and environmental stress in cities

  • Kent P. Schwirian
  • Amy L. Nelson
  • Patricia M. Schwirian


The time has come for urban social indicator research to converge with the basic substantive efforts of urban researchers. Such a convergence may propel both basic and applied researchers toward more fruitful outcomes. This paper argues that the traditional model of urbanism provides the medium for the convergence. When urbanism is conceptualized to be multidimensional, seemingly discreet indicators of demographic, economic, social, and environmental conditions in cities may be incorporated into a more general model of urban structure and change. Specifically, using social indicators for 195 cities from ZPG's Children's Stress Index and the 1990 U.S. Census, we show empirically: (1) Urbanism is a complex factor with four distinct dimensions: demographic scale, economic stress, social stress, and environmental stress. (2) These four dimensions of urbanism may be reliably measured with standard composite variables used in today's social indicator research. (3) Within the Urbanism factor there are causal connections among the separate dimensions, the most basic of which is that asserted by arguments from the traditional theory of urbanism; specifically, that population size, density, and social heterogeneity are causally linked to stress in economic, social, and environmental systems of the city.


Composite Variable Traditional Model Distinct Dimension Social Indicator Social Stress 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Angell, R. C.: 1951, The Moral Integration of American Cities (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL).Google Scholar
  2. Baron, L.: 1993, ‘The heirs of our ways’, The ZPG Reporter 25(2/3), 1–4.Google Scholar
  3. Bentler, P. M.: 1985, Theory and Implementation of EQS: A Structural Equations Program (BMDP Statistical Software, Los Angeles, CA).Google Scholar
  4. Berry, B. J.: 1972, (ed.) City Classification Handbook: Methods and Applications (Wiley-Interscience, New York, NY).Google Scholar
  5. Blalock, H. M. Jr.: 1969, Theory Construction (Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ).Google Scholar
  6. Bollen, K. A.: 1989, Structural Equations with Latent Variables (John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY).Google Scholar
  7. Boyer, R. and D. Savageau: 1989, Places Rated Almanac (Prentice Hall, New York, NY).Google Scholar
  8. Burgess, E. W.: 1925, ‘The growth of the city: An introduction to a research project’, in R. E. Park, E. W. Burgess, and R. D. McKenzie (eds.), The City (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL), pp. 47–62.Google Scholar
  9. Carter, H.: 1981, The Study of Urban Geography (Edward Arnold, London).Google Scholar
  10. Clark, T.: 1972, ‘Urban typologies and political outputs’, in B. J. Berry (ed.), City Classification Handbook: Methods and Applications (Wiley Interscience, New York, NY), pp. 152–178.Google Scholar
  11. Fischer, C.: 1973a, ‘On urban alienation and anomie’, American Sociological Review 38, 311–326.Google Scholar
  12. Fischer, C.: 1973b, ‘Urban malaise’, Social Forces 52, 221–235.Google Scholar
  13. Fischer, C.: 1975, ‘Toward a subcultural theory of urbanism’. American Journal of Sociology 80, 1319–1351.Google Scholar
  14. Fischer, C.: 1984, The Urban Experience (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, NY).Google Scholar
  15. Kasarda, J. D. and M. Janowitz: 1974, ‘Community attachment in mass society’, American Sociological Review 39, 328–339.Google Scholar
  16. Marlin, J. T.: 1992, The Livable Cities Almanac (Harper Collins, New York, NY).Google Scholar
  17. Marvick, E. W. and A. J. Reiss, Jr.: 1956, Community Life and Social Policy (University of Chicago Press, Chicago).Google Scholar
  18. Milgram, S.: 1970, ‘The experience of living in cities’, Science 167, 1461–1468.Google Scholar
  19. Reckless, W.: 1933, Vice in Chicago (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.).Google Scholar
  20. Schneider, K. R.: 1979, On the Nature of Cities (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco: CA).Google Scholar
  21. Schwab, W. A.: 1992, The Sociology of Cities (Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ).Google Scholar
  22. Sharma, R.: 1993, ‘Redirecting foreign aid’, The ZPG Reporter 25(2/3), 2.Google Scholar
  23. Shaw, C., H. D. McKay, L. Cottrell, F. Thrasher and H. M. Zorbaugh: 1925, Delinquency Areas (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.).Google Scholar
  24. Shaw, C. and H. D. McKay: 1942, Juvenile Delinquency and Urban Areas, (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.).Google Scholar
  25. Simmel, G.: 1950, ‘The metropolis and mental life’, in K. H. Wolff (ed.), The Sociology of George Simmel, (The Free Press, New York, NY), pp. 409–424.Google Scholar
  26. The ZPG Reporter: 1993, ‘Children's stress index’ 25, unnumbered insert.Google Scholar
  27. Tonnies, F.: 1887/1957. Community and Society (Trans. and ed. by C. P. Loomis, Harper Torchbook, New York).Google Scholar
  28. Weiss, M. J.: 1988, The Clustering of America (Harper & Row, New York, NY).Google Scholar
  29. Wirth, L: 1938, ‘Urbanism as a way of life’, American Journal of Sociology 44, 3–24.Google Scholar
  30. Wish, N.: 1986, ‘Are we really measuring the quality of life? Well-being has subjective dimensions, as well as objective ones’, American Journal of Economics and Sociology 45, 93–99.Google Scholar
  31. Zorbaugh, H.: 1929, The Gold Coast and the Slum (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kent P. Schwirian
    • 1
  • Amy L. Nelson
    • 1
  • Patricia M. Schwirian
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyOhio State UniversityColumbusU.S.A.

Personalised recommendations