Theoretical Perspectives in Environment-Behavior Research

pp 247-267

Residential Crowding in the Context of Inner City Poverty

  • Gary W. EvansAffiliated withDepartment of Design & Environmental Analysis, Cornell University
  • , Susan SaegertAffiliated withGraduate Center CUNY, Environmental Psychology

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The accumulation of stressful experiences leads to increased risk for adverse outcomes as the adaptive capabilities of the organism are increasingly challenged. If this proposition is correct, then an important omission in environmental stress research has been the examination of crowding, noise, pollution, heat, poor housing quality, and other physical stressors in isolation of the naturalistic contexts in which they normally occur (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Cohen, Evans, Stokols, & Krantz, 1986; Petrinovich, 1979). This chapter examines residential crowding from an ecological perspective. Crowding is one among several, adverse environmental conditions more likely to occur for poor households and among ethnic minority families. The concentration of low income households in the inner city brings with it heightened exposure to environmental stressors. Housing in the inner city is often both relatively expensive and small. Those with limited financial resources must compromise on the size as well as the quality of their housing. Moreover, low income, minority families often must accept housing in less desirable neighborhoods characterized by poor physical conditions such as noise, pollution, physical decay, as well as cope with inadequate public services. These constraints on residential choice are magnified for ethnic minorities by housing discrimination or the need to be proximate to others who share a common language and culture.