Research

 

SEGREGATED WORLDVIEWS:

How Segregated Neighborhoods Could Sabotage the Valley’s Ability to Solve Pressing Regional Problems

CSU-Fresno Sociology professors Jendian and Kubal analyzed data from 163 interviews with community organizers in Visalia and Bakersfield.

Neighborhood organizers seek to unite broad coalitions to address pressing social problems, but they must overcome the barrier of neighborhood segregation.  The neighborhood in which community leaders reside shapes their worldviews.  These segregated worldviews can sabotage community organizers’ efforts to build broad-based community-wide coalitions.

In an effort to discern major actionable issues that would be supported by a broad base of community leaders and constituents, the Relational Culture Institute (RCI)—a nonprofit organization working with faith-based and other community organizations in the South San Joaquin Valley to improve the quality of life for the region—with funding support from the James Irvine Foundation, carried out interview research with community leaders in Visalia (n=74) and Bakersfield (n=89) from August to November 2006.

The interview instrument and protocol were prepared and piloted by David Lighthall, Ph.D., and Yolanda Barba with input from Keith Bergthold and others.  Nine interviewers received training and compensation for interviews completed.  Interviewees’ responses were noted in a spreadsheet document and accessed for data analysis using SPSS and N-Vivo.   RCI contracted with the Social Science Research Lab at California State University, Fresno to perform qualitative and quantitative data analysis and produce written reports summarizing the findings.  Matthew Jendian, Ph.D., and Timothy Kubal, Ph.D., Research Associates with the Social Science Research Lab performed the analyses under the supervision of lab director Edward Nelson, Ph.D.

Using qualitative and quantitative data analysis on the data collected, researchers sought to explain the variation in respondent’s views about the problems and solutions for issues facing their community.  Several variables, predicted to have some influence, did not reveal statistically significant associations with respondents’ views:  respondent’s gender, their length of residence in the valley, their length of job tenure, and their organization type.   When accounting for variation in respondent’s views, the only statistically significant variable was the income type of the neighborhood in which the respondent resided.  This led to the central finding of segregated worldviews among community leaders in Visalia and Bakersfield based on the respondent’s neighborhood income type—mixed, low, middle, or upper.  Four segregated worldviews are prevalent: quality of life, problems, solutions, and rationales.

VISALIA

QUALITY OF LIFE

In Visalia, a near majority of respondents (49%) viewed the City of Visalia’s quality of life as improving. While only 2% responded that the quality of life was declining, 33% responded that there were “serious problems, but they were being addressed.”  

There were segregated worldviews about quality of life. Visalia respondents living in the upper income neighborhoods were more critical of the community’s quality of life.  Positive statements that Visalia was “A city with a high quality of life that is on the upswing” were highest among respondents from low-income neighborhoods (75% agreed) and lowest among respondents from upper income neighborhoods (only 18% agreed). 

Conversely, negative statements that Visalia was “A city facing serious problems that are starting to be addressed” were most likely expressed by community leaders from upper income neighborhoods (45% agreed), and least likely among those from mixed income (25%) and low income (18%) neighborhoods.

 

City View (recoded) Table City View (recoded) Pie Chart


PROBLEMS: Most Important Problem

In Visalia, the top 3 issues identified as the MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM were the Environment (23.7%), Jobs & Economic Development (19.3%), and Public Safety (15.9%).

Most Important Problem Table

Most Important Problem Pie Chart

There were segregated worldviews about the most important problem. Visalia respondents living in lower-income neighborhoods predominantly identified the environment (40%) as the most important problem facing the city.  Respondents living in mixed-income neighborhoods identified jobs and economic development (24%) as the most important problem. Respondents living in middle- and upper-income neighborhoods most frequently identified jobs and economic development (19%) as the most important problem.

PROBLEMS: Sub Issues

The Top Issues in each problem area (by ranking of the area as most important):

  • Environment:  Reducing air pollution and related diseases (76.7%); Protecting open spaces from urban sprawl (12.8%)
  • Jobs/Economic Development: Providing youth and adults with vocational training the market demands (45.9%); Attracting new employers and good-paying jobs (36.5%)
  • Public Safety: Cracking down on gang/criminal activity (51.8%); Providing adequate police and fire protection for all neighborhoods (32.9%)
  • Education: Providing students the resources they need (44.2%); Making sure our schools are accountable (15.1%)
  • Youth: Providing young people with the educational opportunities they need to succeed (55.3%); Preventing kids from joining gangs and the crime they create (15.0%); Providing young people with more leadership opportunities (15.0%)
  • Public Health: Providing health insurance to those without (especially children) (38.4%); Reducing the rapidly growing cost of health insurance for individuals and businesses (27.9%)
  • Housing: Holding local governments/landlords accountable for meeting standards--safety/fair treatment (38.4%); Helping first-time homebuyers (23.3%)
  • Immigration: Providing law-abiding undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship (54.7%); Stopping the influx of undocumented workers (15.1%)
  • Voting & Civic Participation: Getting more registered voters to actually vote (53.5%); Getting elected officers to be more accountable to their constituents (24.4%)
  • Arts & Culture:  More funding for arts and culture (50.6%); Creating more venues for local arts and entertainment (35.3%)

Environmental Issues Pie Chart

Jobs and Economic Development Pie Chart

Public Safety Issues Pie Chart


SOLUTIONS: How is the Problem Being Addressed?

The overwhelming majority (62.4%) of Visalia respondents felt that the problem was being addressed “somewhat, but insufficiently.”  15.3% of respondents felt the problem was “not being addressed at all or very poorly,” and 17.6% of respondents felt the problem as being addressed “effectively, but there is a way to go.”

How well is problem being addressed Pie Chart

Findings about solutions in Visalia reveal segregated worldviews.

Nearly 18% of respondents felt the problem was being addressed “effectively, but there is a way to go.”  This was the most optimistic response choice, and it unveiled segregated worldviews; 50% of those from poor neighborhoods agreed, while all other neighborhood groups had no more than 28% agreeing with the optimistic assessment of solutions.  

Conversely, 15.3% of all respondents felt the problem was “not being addressed at all or very poorly.”  This was the most pessimistic response choice and it unveiled segregated worldviews.  From upper income neighborhoods, only 8% agreed with the pessimistic response, while 18% from mixed income neighborhoods and 16% from middle-income neighborhoods agreed with the pessimistic statement about solutions.

SOLUTIONS: Strategies to Address the Problem

92.9% of respondents felt that more time and/or money needed to be spent on the problem

88.4% of respondents felt that more awareness of the issue needs to be built

87.1% of respondents felt that stronger action by public institutions was needed to better enforce laws and implement policies

77.1% of respondents felt neighborhood leaders and their organizations need to be strengthened

The majority of the Visalia respondents (57.8%) felt that ALL three institutions—government, nonprofits, and churches—should be spending more money on the problem.  Of those respondents who identified one institution in particular, Government was identified most often (15.7%).

RATIONALES

Why do community leaders take action and devote their lives to their cause; why is their work important, and which problems are core issues that shape all others?  Understanding rationales can help answer these types of foundational questions.  Rationales provide the explanation for behavior, so that rationales that are widely shared provide an opportunity to unite people, while segregated, divisive rationales will likely be less successful at uniting disparate populations. Thus, one of the most important ways to understand social action is to examine the rationales that guide social action.

Responses differed based on neighborhood type (low-income, mixed-income, middle income, or upper-income), so that the rationales were relatively segregated.

Of the ten main rationales, none appeared in only one neighborhood type. It was common for rationales to be shared, but it was uncommon for them to be widely shared.

Only four rationales were mentioned by people in all four neighborhood groups in Visalia: Education, Environment, Public Safety, and Political Power. These represent the least divisive rationales.

Education , Environment, Public Safety, and Political Power

(Click on highlighted link for representative quotations)

The remaining top six rationales were shared among fewer than four neighborhood groups, making them relatively more divisive rationales.

housing
jobs
private or personal problem
sprawl
urban transport
youth

 

BAKERSFIELD

QUALITY OF LIFE

The majority of Bakersfield respondents (46.6%) felt viewed the City of Bakersfield’s quality of life was improving.  While only 2.7% responded that the quality of life was declining, 23.3% responded that there were “serious problems, but they were being addressed.”

City View Table

City View Pie Chart

Findings about quality of life showed segregated worldviews. Only about 3% of all Bakersfield respondents believed the quality of life in their community was declining; however, 100% of respondents expressing this view coming from the middle and upper income neighborhoods. 

About twenty-three percent of all respondents said there were “serious problems, but they were being addressed.”  This view, too, was segregated; 86% of respondents from low-income neighborhoods agreed, while only 21% from upper income neighborhoods agreed.  

The most optimistic assessment of the community’s quality of life—“that the city was on an upswing”—was also segregated.  Fifteen percent from the middle income, 11% from upper income, and 0% from the low-income neighborhoods agreed.

PROBLEMS: Most Important Problem

In Bakersfield, the top 3 issues identified as the MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM were Youth (20.8%), Education (18.1%), and Jobs and Economic Development (18.1%).

Most important problem table

Most important problem graph

Findings about problems reveal segregated worldviews. In Bakersfield, 43% of respondents living in lower income neighborhoods identified the environment as the most pressing problem, while the environment was the most important problem to only 21% of respondents from upper income neighborhoods and 10% of respondents from middle-income neighborhoods.  Eleven percent of respondents from upper income groups identified health as the number one problem, but 0% from mixed and low-income groups identified health as the most pressing problem.  Twenty-one percent of respondents from upper income neighborhoods identified education as the most pressing problem, while 12% from middle income, 13% from mixed income, and 0% from low income chose education as the most pressing problem.

 

PROBLEMS: Sub-Issues

The Top Issues in each problem area (by ranking of the area as most important):

  • Youth: Providing young people with the educational opportunities they need to succeed 46.5%); Providing young people with more leadership opportunities (15.5%)
  • Education: Providing students the resources they need (40.3%); Making sure our schools are accountable (34.7%)
  • Jobs/Economic Development: Providing youth and adults with vocational training the market demands (39.7%); Attracting new employers and good-paying jobs (34.2%)
  • Environment:  Reducing air pollution and related diseases (63.0%); Maintaining clean and adequate water supply (16.4%)
  • Public Health: Providing health insurance to those without (especially children) (26.0%); Reducing the rapidly growing cost of health insurance for individuals and businesses (26.0%)
  • Public Safety: Cracking down on gang/criminal activity (44.4%); Making our schools and public places safe (26.4%)
  • Immigration: Providing law-abiding undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship (70.8%); Stopping the influx of undocumented workers (9.7%)
  • Housing: Helping first-time homebuyers (43.1%); Holding local governments/landlords accountable for meeting standards--safety/fair treatment (22.2%)
  • Voting & Civic Participation: Getting more registered voters to actually vote (44.4%); Getting elected officials to be more accountable to their constituents (26.4%)
  • Arts & Culture:  Creating more venues for local arts and entertainment (43.5%); More funding for arts and culture (40.6%)

Youth Issues pie chart

Educational Issues pie chart

Jobs and Economic Development Issues pie chart

SOLUTIONS: How is the Problem Being Addressed?

The majority (52.8%) of Bakersfield respondents felt that the problem was being addressed “somewhat, but insufficiently.”  12.5% of respondents felt the problem was “not being addressed at all or very poorly,” and 23.6% of respondents felt the problem as being addressed “effectively, but there is a way to go.”

How well is the problembeing addressed pie chart

Views regarding solutions showed segregated worldviews. In Bakersfield, the majority nearly 53% of respondents felt that the major problem was being addressed “somewhat, but insufficiently.”  Eighty-eight percent of respondents from upper income neighborhoods agreed with this statement, as did 65% from mixed income neighborhoods.

Nearly 13% of all respondents felt the problem was “not being addressed at all or very poorly.”  This pessimistic response was most likely among respondents from mixed income neighborhoods (22% agreed) and least likely among respondents from upper income neighborhoods (12% agreed). 

Conversely, about 24% of all respondents agreed with the optimistic view that problems were being addressed “effectively, but there is a way to go.”  These optimistic views were most likely among respondents from middle-income neighborhoods (32% agreed) and least likely among those from low-income neighborhoods (0% agreed). 

 

SOLUTIONS: Strategies to Address the Problem

87.1% of respondents felt that more time and/or money needed to be spent on the problem

82.2% of respondents felt that more awareness of the issue needs to be built

80.6% of respondents felt neighborhood leaders and their organizations need to be strengthened

65.3% of respondents felt that stronger action by public institutions was needed to better enforce laws and implement policies

The majority of the Bakersfield respondents (61.9%) felt that ALL three institutions—government, nonprofits, and churches—should be spending more money on the problem.  Of those respondents who identified one institution in particular, 11.1% identified Nonprofits and 9.5% identified Government.

RATIONALES

Rationales differed based on neighborhood type (low-income, mixed-income, middle income, or upper-income), so that the rationales were relatively segregated.

Of the ten main rationales, none appeared in only one neighborhood type. It was common for rationales to be shared, but it was uncommon for them to be widely shared.

Only four rationales were mentioned by people in all four neighborhood groups in Bakersfield: Education, Poverty, Housing, and Public Safety. These represent the least divisive rationales.

Education , Poverty, Housing, and Public Safety

(Click on highlighted link for representative quotations)

The remaining top six rationales were shared among fewer than four neighborhood groups, making them relatively more divisive rationales.

Jobs

Private or Personal Problem

Sprawl

Youth

Environment

Health

 

CONCLUSION

Our quantitative and qualitative analysis of the data collected from 163 interviews with community leaders in Visalia and Bakersfield suggests that segregated neighborhoods provide an important and often-unacknowledged impediment to coalition building.  Community organizers seek to build coalitions across boundaries of difference, but the analysis presented here suggests that a major barrier to coalition building is not the obvious differences of gender or organization, but rather the major barriers are rooted in differences created by residential segregation.  While differences can be an important strength for social groups, unacknowledged differences such as segregated worldviews present a potent threat that could sabotage the South San Joaquin Valley’s community organizers in their attempts to build coalitions that solve pressing social problems.