Ethnography, the ecological fallacy, and the 1995 Chicago heat wave

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Abstract

In Chicago in July 1995, the Cook County Medical Examiner classified 739 heat-related death after one week of record high heat and humidity. In the 2002 book Heat Wave, Eric Klinenberg provides an influential account of these deaths. Klinenberg specifically contrasts mortalities in two neighboring communities, black North Lawndale and Latino South Lawndale. He explains the mortality difference by focusing on how elderly black residents, including those in "literal isolation," were impacted by neighborhood conditions. However Klinenberg's bookprovides no data on the individuals who died. The author of this Research Note reports more data obtained by traveling to these two communities and to the bordering white community of Archer Heights. The author compares his findings against data available on death certificates for all decedents. At the time of the heat wave, many of the people who died were not elderly and only two elderly victims in North Lawndale were living alone. In the bordering white community, most decedents were living alone during the heat wave and none had ever married. The author questions whether Klinenberg's theory operates at the individual level in North Lawndale and assesses whether Robinson's "ecological fallacy" pertains to Klinenberg's study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)679-688
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Sociological Review
Volume71
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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