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Mary Pattillo

Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and Chair, Department of Black Studies

  • (847) 491-3409 (Sociology); (847) 491-2036 (AFAM)
  • 1808 Chicago Avenue, Rm 202 (Sociology); 5-111 Crowe Hall (AFAM)
  • Office Hours: Mostly Tuesdays 2:00-4:00pm - By appointment only. Sign up for up to two 15-minute appointment slots. Office hours will be in person in 5-111 Crowe Hall, or on zoom (
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Area(s) of Interest

Urban Sociology, Race and Ethnicity, Inequality

Relevant Links

Department of Black Studies

Institute for Policy Research


PhD. in Sociology, University of Chicago, 1997
BA in Urban Studies, Columbia University, 1991

Mary Pattillo’s areas of interest include race and ethnicity, urban sociology, inequality, housing, education, criminal legal studies, Black communities, and qualitative methods. The city of Chicago offers an abundance of opportunities for research and activism and Pattillo strives to be an expert in Chicago history, politics, and social life. In her first book, Black Picket Fences (University of Chicago Press, 1999), Pattillo investigates the economic, spatial, and cultural forces that affect child-rearing and youth socialization in a black middle-class neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. In her second book, Black on the Block (University of Chicago Press 2007) focused on gentrification and public housing transformation in North Kenwood - Oakland on Chicago's South Side. The book develops the concept of "middlemen" and "middlewomen," the roles that black professionals play in working alternatively to mediate or exacerbate racial and class inequality. Other projects in Chicago and Illinois include a study of how Black parents negotiate school choice and how families make housing choices, and research on the system of monetary sanctions—fines, fees, and other financial penalties—in the criminal legal system. Outside of Chicago, Pattillo co-edited Imprisoning America: The Social Effects of Mass Incarceration (Russell Sage, 2004) and has studied the Black middle class in Latin America, and is working on a new research paradigm called “Black Advantage Vision.”


Pattillo is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Political & Social Science. She sits on the Board of Trustees of the W.T. Grant Foundation and Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts, and was a founding board member of Urban Prep Charter Academies in Chicago.  

Courses Taught


SOCIOL 110: Introduction to Sociology

SOCIOL 207: Cities in Society Syllabus

SOCIOL 403: Field Methods

SOCIOL 476: Topics in Soc. Analysis: Urban Ethnography

SOCIOL 520: Housing, Community and Public Policy

African American Studies:

AFAM 215: Intro to Black Social and Political Life Syllabus

AFAM 460: Race, Politics, Society, and Culture


Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City
University of Chicago Press, 2007

Black Picket Fences
University of Chicago Press, 1999

Imprisoning America: The Social Effects of Mass Incarceration
Russell Sage Foundation, 2004


“Black Advantage Vision: Flipping the Script on Racial Inequality Research”
Issues in Race & Society, Spring 2021

Statutory Inequality: The Logics of Monetary Sanctions in State Law
With Brittany Friedman, Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 2019

Black Placemaking: Celebration, Play, and Poetry
With Marcus Anthony Hunter Mary Pattillo Zandria F. Robinson Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Theory, Culture, and Society, 2016

Race, Class, and Crime in the Redevelopment of American Cities
Pp 143-159 in American Economies, edited by Eva Boesenberg, Reinhard Isensee and Martin Klepper. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2012             

Urban Sociology in the Post-Civil Rights Era

Sociologists Backstage: Answers to 10 Questions about What They Do
Editors, Nikki Jones and Sarah Fenstermaker; New York: Routledge, 2010

Making Fair (Public) Housing Claims in a Post-Racism Legal Context
Journal of Affordable Housing 2009

Black Middle-class Neighborhoods. Annual Review of Sociology 31:305-29. 2003.

Extending the boundaries and definition of the ghetto. Ethnic and Racial Studies 26:1046-57. 2003

Negotiating Blackness, For Richer or for Poorer. Ethnography 4:61-93. 2003

Sweet Mothers and Gangbangers: Managing Crime in a Black Middle-Class Neighborhood. Social Forces, 1998