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Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN): Systematic Social Observation, 1995

Resource Type
Dataset : observational data
  • Earls, Felton J. (Harvard Medical School)
  • Raudenbush, Stephen W. (Scientific Director. University of Michigan. School of Education and Survey Research Center)
  • Reiss, Albert J., Jr. (Yale University. Department of Sociology)
  • Sampson, Robert J. (Scientific Director. Harvard University. Department of Sociology)
Other Title
  • Version 1 (Subtitle)
Collective Title
  • Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) Series
Publication Date
Funding Reference
  • United States Department of Health and Human Services. Administration for Children and Families. Head Start Bureau
  • United States Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice
  • United States Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Mental Health
  • United States Department of Education. Office of Educational Research and Improvement
  • John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Turner Foundation
  • United States Department of Health and Human Services. Administration for Children and Families. Child Care Bureau
  • Harris Foundation
Free Keywords
communities; delinquent behavior; gangs; housing; housing conditions; neighborhood characteristics; neighborhood conditions; neighborhoods; perceptions; social behavior; social control; social indicators; substance abuse; urban areas; urban crime; violence
  • Abstract

    The Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) was a large-scale, interdisciplinary study of how families, schools, and neighborhoods affect child and adolescent development. One component of the PHDCN was the Systematic Social Observation (SSO). The SSO was a standardized approach for directly observing the physical, social, and economic characteristics of neighborhoods, one block at a time. In 1995, the PHDCN initiated a combined person-based and videotaped approach to collecting systematic observations of neighborhoods. Eighty of the 343 Neighborhood Clusters were used in this study. Once the sampling was complete, the block face (the block segment on one side of the street) became the unit of observation. Using videotape and observer logs, data were collected in the 80 sampled Chicago neighborhoods. Only a sample of block faces were selected for coding due to budget expenses. The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) collected the data for the SSO. Between June and October of 1995, trained observers from NORC drove a sports utility vehicle down every block within the 80 sampled neighborhoods. A videographer videotaped both sides of each block, while two observers recorded characteristics of each block face on observer logs. Further coding of the videotapes and observer logs was conducted by NORC staff.
  • Abstract

    Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods The Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) was a large-scale, interdisciplinary study of how families, schools, and neighborhoods affect child and adolescent development. It was designed to advance the understanding of the developmental pathways of both positive and negative human social behaviors. In particular, the project examined the causes and pathways of juvenile delinquency, adult crime, substance abuse, and violence. At the same time, the project provided a detailed look at the environments in which these social behaviors took place by collecting substantial amounts of data about urban Chicago, including its people, institutions, and resources. Systematic Social Observation The data in this collection are from the Systematic Social Observation, (SSO), which was administered between June and October, 1995. The SSO is a standardized approach for directly observing the physical, social, and economic characteristics of neighborhoods, one block at a time. The main objective of the SSO in this project was to measure the effects of neighborhood characteristics upon young people's development, specifically the variables associated with youth violence.
  • Abstract

    Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods The city of Chicago was selected as the research site for the PHDCN because of its extensive racial, ethnic, and social-class diversity. The project collapsed 847 census tracts in the city of Chicago into 343 neighborhood clusters (NCs) based upon seven groupings of racial/ethnic composition and three levels of socioeconomic status. The NCs were designed to be ecologically meaningful. They were composed of geographically contiguous census tracts, and geographic boundaries and knowledge of Chicago's neighborhoods were considered in the definition of the NCs. Each NC was comprised of approximately 8,000 people. Systematic Social Observation The data collection was conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC). Trained observers from NORC drove down each block, at a rate of five miles per hour, within the 80 neighborhoods sampled. A total of 23,816 block faces was examined. A videographer and two observers accompanied the driver. The videographer videotaped both sides of each block and the observers recorded characteristics of each block face in observer logs. Trained NORC viewers then watched the videotapes for 15,141 block faces and coded the data using a lengthier coding sheet than the observer logs, consisting of 126 questions, mostly precoded. All logs with the videotapes contained a sequential ID number, the name of the street of the face block, the cross streets that defined the face block street segments, the direction the vehicle was heading, the time, and the odometer readings. These appeared at the beginning and end of each face block. The ID number, the time, and the odometer reading stated in the audio and written on the observation log had to match for coding the face block. The data were collected seven days per week, for 14 hours a day from June until October in 1995. Intercoder reliability was conducted during the training of the coders. Both observers independently coded 90 block faces. The observations were compared and differences resolved. Coding procedures were revised as needed. To check the quality of the data, a random sample of 10 percent of all block faces coded were later recoded by new observers and the results compared with the original coding. This revealed an agreement rate of over 98 percent.
  • Abstract

    The researchers collected data on land use, residential housing, commercial industrial buildings, drinking establishments, recreational facilities, street conditions, the number of security persons, children, and teenagers visible, traffic, the physical condition of buildings, cigarette and cigars on the street or in the gutter, garbage, litter on the street or sidewalk, empty beer bottles visible on the street, tagging graffiti, graffiti painted over, gang graffiti, abandoned cars, condoms on the sidewalk, needles and syringes on the sidewalk, and political message graffiti. Information was also gathered on adults loitering or congregating, people drinking alcohol, peer groups, gang indicators present, intoxicated people, adults fighting or hostilely arguing, prostitution on the street, and people selling drugs.
  • Methods

    ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection: Performed recodes and/or calculated derived variables.; Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes..
  • Table of Contents


    • DS1: Systematic Social Observation, 1995
Temporal Coverage
  • 1995-06 / 1995-10
    Time period: 1995-06--1995-10
  • 1995-06 / 1995-10
    Collection date: 1995-06--1995-10
Geographic Coverage
  • Chicago
  • Illinois
  • United States
Sampled Universe
Neighborhoods within the city limits of Chicago, Illinois. Smallest Geographic Unit: neighborhood cluster
Chicago's 864 census tracts were combined into 343 Neighborhood Clusters (NCs). In forming the NCs, consideration was given to the clusters being as ecologically meaningful as possible and internally homogenous on key census indicators. The resulting units contained about 8,000 people, large enough to approximate local neighborhoods. Eighty of the 343 NCs were examined. To ensure that a wide range of neighborhoods were used, the 343 neighborhoods were stratified by three levels of SES and seven levels of racial and ethnic composition. After selecting the NCs, the block face became the unit of observation. After the 80 NCs were selected, the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) prioritized block faces by selecting random neighborhoods by stratum. Three neighborhoods were regarded as a unit of work. The priority list was followed essentially in order, although some areas were switched for logistical reasons or because some neighborhoods, deemed more dangerous or traffic-dense, were moved to Sunday morning taping slots. Of the 27,734 block faces identified, the following information was gathered: (1) There were 22,418 block faces that had complete observation logs and videotapes. (2) There were 1,395 block faces that had incomplete observation logs and complete videotapes. (3) There were 2 block faces that had incomplete observation logs and no videotapes. (4) There was 1 block face that had a complete observation log, but not videotape. (5) There were 3,918 block faces that did not exist. (These block faces were determined not to be block faces once out in the neighborhood. For example, new construction eliminated some block faces.) A random subsample of 64 percent of the videotaped block faces were chosen to be coded. In those NCs consisting of 150 or fewer block faces, all block faces were coded. In the remaining block faces, sample sizes were calculated to approximate a balanced design as closely as possible in order to maximize statistical power for comparisons of NCs. A total of 15,141 block faces were actually coded for an average of 189 bock faces per NC. Thirty of the coded block faces had coding records but no observation logs and were thus excluded when the coding records and observation log records were merged.
Collection Mode
  • The Murray Research Center conducted the initial data and documentation processing for this collection.

This study is freely available to the general public via web download.
Alternative Identifiers
  • 13578 (Type: ICPSR Study Number)
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  • DiPietro, Stephanie M.. Immigrant Assimiliation, Family Functioning and Delinquency: A Test of Mediating and Moderating Influences. Dissertation, University of Maryland. 2010.
  • Nicholson, David F.. Disadvantaged Neighborhoods and Fear of Crime: Does Family Structure Matter. Dissertation, University of Oklahoma. 2010.
  • Ozdemir, Metin. Predictors and Outcomes of Adolescent Self-Efficacy Beliefs: An Analysis of Individual, Peer, Family, and Neighborhood Level Variables. Dissertation, University of Maryland, Baltimore County. 2009.
  • Zimmerman, Gregory M.. Impulsivity, Offending, and the Neighborhood: Investigating the Person-Context Nexus. Dissertation, State University of New York, Albany. 2009.
  • Gault, Martha, Silver, Eric. Spuriousness or mediation? Broken windows according to Sampson and Raudenbush (1999). Journal of Criminal Justice.36, (3), 240-243.2008.
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  • Browning, Christopher R., Wallace, Danielle, Feinberg, Seth L., Cagney, Kathleen A.. Neighborhood social processes, physical conditions, and disaster-related mortality: The case of the 1995 Chicago Heat Wave. American Sociological Review.71, (4), 661-678.2006.
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  • Molnar, Beth E., Gortmaker, S.L., Bull, F.C., Buka, Stephen L.. Unsafe to play?: Neighborhood disorder and lack of safety predict reduced physical activity among urban children and adolescents. American Journal of Health Promotion.18, 38-46.2004.
    • ID: 10.4278/0890-1171-18.5.378 (DOI)
  • Sampson, Robert J., Raudenbush, Stephen W.. Seeing disorder: Neighborhood stigma and the social construction of 'broken windows'. Social Psychology Quarterly.67, (4), 319-342.2004.
    • ID: 10.1177/019027250406700401 (DOI)
  • Raudenbush, Stephen W.. The quantitative assessment of neighborhood social environments. Neighborhoods and Health.New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 2003.
  • Sampson, Robert J., Raudenbush, Stephen W.. Disorder in Urban Neighborhoods--Does It Lead to Crime?. National Institute of Justice Research in Brief.NCJ 186049, Washington, DC: United States Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice. 2001.
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  • Raudenbush, Stephen W., Sampson, Robert J.. Ecometrics: Toward a science of assessing ecological settings, with application to the systematic social observation of neighborhoods. Sociological Methodology.29, 1-41.1999.
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  • Sampson, Robert J., Raudenbush, Stephen W.. Systematic social observation of public spaces: A new look at disorder in urban neighborhoods. American Journal of Sociology.105, (3), 603-651.1999.
    • ID: 10.1086/210356 (DOI)

Update Metadata: 2015-08-05 | Issue Number: 6 | Registration Date: 2015-06-16

Earls, Felton J.; Raudenbush, Stephen W.; Reiss, Albert J., Jr.; Sampson, Robert J. (2005): Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN): Systematic Social Observation, 1995. Version 1. Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) Series. Version: v1. ICPSR - Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research. Dataset.