Neighborhood Field Study
The two primary purposes of this project are (1) to give students experience with hands-on field work, exploring Portland-area neighborhoods to learn about their history; social, economic, and demographic makeup; sense of community; and cultural “personality”; and (2) to expose students to a variety of place-based community settings and experiences with which they may have had little familiarity prior to taking this class.
A secondary purpose of this exercise is for students to learn, practice, and demonstrate presentation skills, using one or more of a variety of procedures (oral presentation, website, poster, etc.).
Finally, students may choose to work on this project in teams, which provides the opportunity to learn, refine, and practice teamwork skills.
Unlike many cities, Portland has an Office of Neighborhood Involvement, which is actually part of our city government, constituting one of the city bureaus and overseen by a city commissioner.
Portland is divided into seven Neighborhood Coalitions (click here for a printable color map), which make up the "top level" of our neighborhood system. You can link to contact information about the coalitions, including web addresses.
The seven coalitions are (if you live within Portland, try to find the coalition that includes your neighborhood):
At the level below the coalitions are the individual neighborhood associations themselves. There are 90-95 associations (depending on whether you include five that are "recognized" but not affiliated with any Coalition). You can look at this large map of street and neighborhood detail to see exactly what your neighborhood association is. If you live outside of Portland proper, you will not be part of a Portland neighborhood association. If you visit this map, please note that it takes a long time to load and will probably appear unreadably small on your screen. You will need to use the zoom-in tool, located on the toolbar in Adobe, to click on the general area where you live. Keep clicking until you see your street and neighborhood clearly.
“Diversity” means variation, difference, heterogeneity. There are many variables that social scientists examine when studying diversity. These include race, ethnicity, gender, religion, education, income, sexual orientation, occupation, marital status and number of children, type of housing, main method of transportation – to name just a few.
The primary method the government uses to find out about the characteristics of the U.S. population is the Census, but the Census does not retrieve a very wide range of information. For example, it does not ask about religious affiliation or practices.
Many people – whether college students or not – have very little idea of the “world around them” – even within their own city. Although Portland is not a very diverse city in terms of many sociodemographic factors, such as race and ethnicity, there are neighborhoods in Portland that are above the national average in certain categories.
For example, according to the 2000 Census, 13 percent of Portlanders were born outside of the U.S., compared with the national average of 11 percent. And although people identifying themselves as black or African-American constitute 12 percent of the national population and only 7 percent in Portland, there are neighborhoods in Portland where up to 50 percent of the population is of African descent. Similarly, although Hispanics and Latinos constitute 13 percent of the national population, there are neighborhoods in Portland where up to 30 percent of the population reports being of Latino or Hispanic descent.
Neighborhood-level data are not available on the subject of same-sex households, but 2000 Census data reveals that approximately 6 percent of all American households consist of same-sex unmarried couples. In Portland, this number is approximately 3.5 percent. Although that is below the national average, it is possible that there are specific neighborhoods in which the percentage of same-sex unmarried couples exceeds the national average.
Diversity is all around us; we simply have to look – with an open mind and informed perspective.
I have selected clusters of neighborhoods that are distinguishable in one way or another.
For example, the Northwest and Pearl Districts have much higher than average ratios of men to women; higher than average incomes; and small households, with one or zero children. Academic literature and popular resources suggest that both neighborhoods are friendly to “DINKs” – Dual Income No Kids – and that a larger than average percentage of these households consist of same-sex male couples.
Or, as another example, the Lents and Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhoods have a much larger than average percentage of families who speak a language other than English at home.
These are the neighborhood clusters we will study (note that the last cluster is actually not in Portland):
Choosing Your Neighborhood Cluster
You should begin this project by finding out some very basic background information about some of the clusters above. Note that while most of the neighborhoods in a cluster are physically near to one another, they are not necessarily all part of the same Neighborhood Coalition. Also, the last two, while not Portland neighborhoods, might be interesting to study as examples of planned communities; they are, however, on opposite sides of the Portland Metropolitan area.
Suggestions for learning about the clusters:
Once neighborhood cluster assignments have been made, you should proceed to Part II to help guide you in carrying out the actual field study and preparing your presentation.