Mary Pattillo Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and African American Studies

Area(s) of Interest:  Urban Sociology, Race and Ethnicity, Inequality

Relevant Links

African American Studies

Institute for Policy Research


Professor of Sociology and African American Studies, Faculty Affiliate Institute for Policy Research; Ph.D. University of Chicago 1997. Pattillo's areas of interest include race and ethnicity, the black middle class, policy, inequality, urban sociology, and qualitative methods.

Pattillo uses the city of Chicago as her laboratory and strives to be an expert in Chicago history, politics, and social life. In her first book, Black Picket Fences (University of Chicago Press, 1999), Pattillo investigated the economic, spatial, and cultural forces that affect child-rearing and youth socialization in a black middle class neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. Black Picket Fences won the Oliver Cromwell Cox Best Book Award from the American Sociological Association.

Her second book, Black on the Block (University of Chicago Press 2007) focused on gentrification and public housing transformation in North Kenwood - Oakland on Chicago's South Side. The book developed the concept of "middlemen" and "middlewomen," the roles that black professionals play in working alternatively to mediate or exacerbate racial and class inequality. It won the Robert Park Book Award and a proclamation of the City of Chicago.

Current research projects include a study of how parents negotiate school choice, the impact of housing on families and children, the effect of college match on racial and class stratification, and the prevalence and impact of monetary sanction in the Illinois criminal justice system.  Pattillo also has a growing interest in race in Latin America.

Pattillo is a founding board member and active participant in Urban Prep Charter Academy, the first all-boys public charter high school in Chicago.

Courses Taught


SOCIOL 110: Introduction to Sociology Syllabus

SOCIOL 207: Problems of Cities Syllabus

SOCIOL 403: Field Methods

SOCIOL 476: Topics in Soc. Analysis: Urban Ethnography Syllabus

SOCIOL 520: Housing, Community and Public Policy Syllabus

African American Studies:

AFAM 215: Intro to Black Social and Political Life Syllabus

AFAM 460: Race, Politics, Society, and Culture Syllabus


Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City
University of Chicago Press, 2007

Black Picket Fences
University of Chicago Press, 1999

Imprisoning America: The Social Effects of Mass Incarceration
Russell Sage Foudation, 2004


Race, Class, and Crime in the Redevelopment of American Cities
Pp 143-159 in American Economies, edited by Eva Boesenberg, Reinhard Isensee and Martin Klepper. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2012             

Urban Sociology in the Post-Civil Rights Era

Sociologists Backstage: Answers to 10 Questions about What They Do
Editors, Nikki Jones and Sarah Fenstermaker; New York: Routledge, 2010

Making Fair (Public) Housing Claims in a Post-Racism Legal Context
Journal of Affordable Housing 2009

Black Middle-class Neighborhoods. Annual Review of Sociology 31:305-29. 2003.

Extending the boundaries and definition of the ghetto. Ethnic and Racial Studies 26:1046-57. 2003

Negotiating Blackness, For Richer or for Poorer. Ethnography 4:61-93. 2003

Sweet Mothers and Gangbangers: Managing Crime in a Black Middle-Class Neighborhood. Social Forces, 1998