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The Making of the Chicago Project

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Envisioning Criminology
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Abstract

Many social science studies appear rather antiseptic in their description, as if data cleanly appeared on the analyst’s computer screen without any blood, sweat, or tears. The Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) generated lots of the latter, and I believe that the story of its making is relevant to an understanding of how social science works, how cities work, and the interplay between them in producing a human outcome. The role of scientific investigators in such endeavors is usually overlooked, as is the process by which ideas generate the construction of data. Paraphrasing Goethe, one might say that “data are theory.” Also underappreciated are the twists, turns, and compromises that researchers encounter once the research design texts are closed and data collection commences. I thus make an effort to breathe life into those key moments in the project. I begin with the intellectual backdrop to PHDCN, which might be subtitled: “What happens when social science gets into bed with big science?”

This is an edited version of Chap. 4 in Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect. Reprinted with permission: © 2012 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. Readers should consult the original chapter for the full text, footnotes, and references.

In their introduction, the editors note that terms like “collective efficacy” and “ecometrics” have made their way into textbooks, but there is little indication of how they came to be, and how difficult it was to mount the project that generated these and other concepts that are now in the mainstream of sociological and criminological thought. The full story (see Chap. 4 in Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect) is considerably richer and more descriptive of the personalities, challenges, and opportunities of the project.

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Correspondence to Robert J. Sampson .

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Sampson, R.J. (2015). The Making of the Chicago Project. In: Maltz, M., Rice, S. (eds) Envisioning Criminology. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-15868-6_10

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