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What Is Urban Sociology?

By Sandi Johnson
Updated May 23, 2024
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Urban sociology is the study of life in metropolitan areas. The affects of city life, municipal policies, infrastructure, community development, and commerce are felt by all walks of society. As one of the many branches of sociology, the study of urban sociology takes a deeper look at what causes the unique characteristics of city life, based primarily on human interaction. Studies include topics such as what key characteristics are observable in an urban area, patterns of residential and commercial placement, population subset trends and dynamics, as well as how each of these factors influences a city's society as a whole.

The goal of studying urban sociology is to develop policies, programs, and services to meet the needs of urban societies. Likewise, by understanding how city planning and zoning, neighborhood dynamics, and other socioeconomic trends affect urban communities, society can take steps to mitigate negative consequences or encourage positive results. Through careful analysis of the rise and fall of various cities, urban areas, and societies from both history and present day, professionals trained in the study of urban sociology gain insight into solving future issues.

Life in an urban population area presents a unique micro-specimen of a larger society. Results of urban sociology studies illustrate societal cause and effect results not found in less-populated communities. The close proximity of residential and commercial areas, dense populations, the availability of services, and local government policy all play a role in how residents of a particular city interact, the culture these residents develop, and the dynamics between different subsets of the population. Studying the relationship of each of these factors in one city can provide something of a cross-sectional view of larger societal challenges.

Certain postsecondary colleges and universities offer degree programs in urban sociology. In such programs, undergraduate students focus on the study of community dynamics, urban policy, labor markets in urban locations, distinctions unique to urban settings, the role of the family in community development, the affects of globalization on urban life, as well as socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic trends within a city. Upon completing such studies, those who become urban sociologists are able to give professional advice to city leaders and government, to continue researching various aspects of urban sociology, or to work with nonprofit organizations to provide needed services.

Government authorities, municipal employees, and service providers within a particular city can benefit greatly from studies conducted into urban sociology. Issues such as residential housing, job markets and workforce training, poverty, economic environments, and education are all affected by the dynamics of city life. In many cases, such issues require a higher sense of diversity and sensitivity for community dynamics than in other population centers. As such, studies conducted into various aspects of urban sociology are invaluable to city leaders, key stakeholders, and service providers.

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Discussion Comments
By ZipLine — On Jul 03, 2014

@donasmrs-- Of course, people interact but the interaction is different.

If you lived in a small town with a small population, you would be seeing the same people all the time. And it might also be true that people in towns are more friendly. These are all various aspects of urban sociology that sociologists study.

By donasmrs — On Jul 02, 2014

Do people in the city even interact?

I live in the city and I don't even know who my neighbors are. I haven't even seen some of them despite having lived in this building for two years.

By SteamLouis — On Jul 02, 2014

I didn't even know that this field of sociology existed. But it makes sense that it does because life in urban areas is different from life in rural areas. People interact differently and have different needs and interests.

First of all, urban life is more stressful than rural life. Urban areas are very crowded and this affects every aspect of life. It means that transportation can be a problem because of traffic. People may spend a considerable amount of time in transport. It also means that people don't know each other and are more distant or protective of themselves. Crime is usually higher in urban areas and that affects social life as well.

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