Robert Vargas
Advisor: Freese

Areas of Interest

Urban Sociology, Sociology of Organizations, Social Psychology


Current Research

Studies on the geographic concentration of violent crime typically focus on the individual as the unit of analysis, often ignoring the role of institutions and organizations in the social construction of violent hotspots. Through a three-year neighborhood case study, my research highlights the role of middlemen and neighborhood organization leadership in the social construction of violent crime hotspots. Based on fieldwork with violence prevention organizations, observations of public spaces, and a household survey of neighborhood residents, I have found that factors such as the incarceration of gang leaders, funding priorities of philanthropic organizations, employee turnover at non-profits, and city politics disrupt the local social order. Even further, these factors consistently undermine the neighborhood’s ability to build social capital and collective efficacy. These findings may contribute to understanding inconsistent results with regards to the social effects of mass incarceration, as well as theories of social mechanisms.



2010 – National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant

2010 – Northwestern University Graduate Research Grant

2009 - Robert F. Winch Award For Outstanding Second Year Paper

2009 – Spencer Foundation Research Grant (co-PI with Lincoln Quillian)

2008-2011 Fellow of the Multi-Disciplinary Program in Educational Sciences

2008 – MacArthur Summer Research Grant (co-PI with Lincoln Quillian)

2005 – Ronald E. McNair Scholar

Political Science/Sociology joint Assistant Professor of Instruction Search

NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY'S Departments of Political Science and Sociology invite applications for a full-time, benefits-eligible, non-tenure eligible faculty appointment as Assistant Professor of Instruction, beginning September 1, 2016. Further details about the position are available online at 



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Upcoming Events

Sociology Colloquium - Professor Tamara Kay, The University of New Mexico
October 8, 201512:30 PM - 2:00 PM

Sociology Colloquium - Professor Kelly Moore, Loyola University
October 15, 201512:30 PM - 2:00 PM

March 29, 2012