Neighborhood change in the Bronx, 1950-1980: A case study

Mary Cortina, Fordham University


Ecological theory has provided the framework for much of the study of urban change in sociology. The invasion-succession model and neighborhood life-cycle model are two of the most comprehensive and influential schemes describing this change. In both models, neighborhoods are said to evolve through a series of distinct stages. Each stage is accompanied by a unique set of social and economic characteristics. In recent decades, however, the process of neighborhood change has been rapid and often resulted in the widespread destruction and abandonment of neighborhoods. Over the years, the explanatory power of ecological theory has come into question. Therefore, neighborhood change in the Bronx between 1950 and 1980 is described and examined in the context of ecological theory. This allows for the exploration of the change process itself and the testing of ecological precepts. Census tract analysis is conducted for two neighborhoods, Morris Park and Van Nest in the East Bronx. Comparisons are made for each of the areas, in relation to one another and over each of the Census periods. Specific variables were chosen to study the process of change. These include race/ethnicity, the age distribution, median family income, median education and housing characteristics. Limited support was found for both models of change. However, there were several departures from the stated model. First, change was not a slow, orderly process that occurred in specific stages. Second, contrary to the model's predictions, there was a great deal of consistency in the socioeconomic status of the areas over time, and third, the succession process was found to be reversible, at least for some of the tracts. The findings indicate that the Bronx and Van Nest experienced significant population loss and white out-migration as early as the 1950's. Van Nest became a destination point for Puerto Rican migrants from other neighborhoods in the Bronx during the 1960's. This study suggests the need to incorporate both structural factors and personal perception into a model of neighborhood change.

Subject Area

Demographics|Social structure

Recommended Citation

Cortina, Mary, "Neighborhood change in the Bronx, 1950-1980: A case study" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9026733.