Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology (PhD)
Cities, Sustainability and Inequality
Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.
The principal goal of this dissertation is to study whether mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented environments are universally accessible. Compact neighborhoods are viewed positively because they improve health and sustainable development, but access is limited to financially qualified populations (Riggs, 2016).Housing (un)affordability becomes a problem when land prices and home values rise as demand for inner-city neighborhoods, often characterized by mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented design (MUPOD), increases (Leinberger & Alfonzo, 2012).This dissertation explores the spatial distribution of MUPOD in the Metro Vancouver region (BC) and the health, housing, and demographic makeup of neighborhoods using a series of multiple linear regression models (2014/2015). This dissertation bridges planning research gaps on the impact of MUPOD on displacement, and the interactions between built form, health outcomes and housing prices. It is hypothesized that MUPOD is associated with gentrification and displacement.I find a negative relationship between MUPOD and health and social well-being (p>0.05) which contradicts the understanding that residents of compact environments benefit from improved health. Different built environments contribute to uneven health outcomes for communities of different socioeconomic status. Consequently, negative health impacts associated with increased demand for inner-city neighborhoods need to be acknowledged.The results exemplify gentrification processes in high MUPOD environments. A positive MUPOD/house value association is documented in Vancouver urban core whereas higher MUPOD scores predict reductions in house values in the Metro’s suburban periphery. Moreover,ivthere is no statistically significant evidence to suggest household relocation from high MUPOD environments for affordability reasons. Unlike the study’s expectations, increased MUPOD levels are shown to predict higher percentages of low-income households earning under $40k.Perhaps, it is not low-income households who are displaced? Maybe they cannot even afford to move? While these results cannot be used to explain causation, they encourage discussion about relevant correlational associations, namely accessibility, health, housing, social inequality, and displacement. Future studies need to ask - what are the costs of staying? Policies need to be designed using social and health equity lenses to benefit all. Ultimately, a qualitative approach to explore these research questions is necessary to improve understanding of displacement processes.
This dissertation investigates how Chinese immigrants perceive and practice having children inthe course of immigration from China to Canada. While previous studies focus solely on post-immigrationfertility outcomes, my research includes prior-to-immigration childbearingperceptions and experiences to provide a holistic framework of fertility processes. Using 42 in-depthinterviews, I collect qualitative data on participants’ immigration journey and childbirthhistory as well as their own accounts of understanding, reasoning about, and reflecting on theirlived experiences. Through comparing across-group differences between immigrants who hadchildren in China and those who had children in Canada, as well as within-group differencesbetween people who had more children and those who had fewer, I find that moving acrossborders at different stages of the reproductive process shapes the ways people perceiveimmigration to Canada as a temporary stay, permanent settlement, periodic circulation, orspringboard to other places. At the same time, variations in navigating immigration systems andreception institutions account for divergences in the timing, spacing, number of childbirths, andcitizenship of children. I argue that immigration screening in the first place and receptioncontexts in turn channel immigrants into different reproduction trajectories. I develop anEmbodied Dynamics Model to elucidate the constellation of institutional, relational, andsituational dynamics that shape the ways individuals cope with moving across borders andhaving children simultaneously as the individual life course unfolds over time and across space. Iargue that immigrant fertility is best understood as a social reproduction process across borders,which involves ongoing triadic interplays of making sense of biographic situations, cooperatingwith relational circumstances, and navigating institutional contexts.
Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.
Research on informal housing has predominantly focused on formations occurring in the Global South, with less empirical focus on the Global North. Utilizing data from qualitative interviews with people practicing vehicle-living in the Metro Vancouver region, this study diverges from the Global South approach, by examining how individuals living out of their vehicles attempt to connect to the urban technological grid, and how these intermittent connections help people build and recreate a sense of home within makeshift, “illegitimate” living spaces. The results of this study contribute to the sociological literature on vehicle-living and housing inequalities, and helps expand the field of informal housing studies through the exploration of a form of mobile makeshift housing occurring within the specific material and socio-economic conditions of the Global North.
This thesis explores the theoretical and empirical connection between the welfare state and national-level climate governance, drawing together the concepts of the ecological state, ecological modernization, and varieties of capitalism. It is argued that the eco-state represents the latest evolutionary phase of the modern state, though no state has achieved full eco-state status. In its nascence it has thus been layered on top of institutional structures that characterize earlier phases, namely welfare and production regimes. As a result, 'eco-state regimes' – differential degrees of eco-state development – have begun to take shape, mapping onto these two foundational regimes such that coordinated market economies with social democratic welfare states are the vanguards of ecological modernization, a discourse that dominates environmental policy arenas across the advanced capitalist world but that these particular countries have embraced with especial gusto and have the institutional and governance capacities to make a reality. It is proposed, then, that this ‘family of nations’ would exhibit comparatively strong climate governance from an ecological modernization perspective. Using available data, I assess the empirical relevance of this theoretical framework and suggest how it might be strengthened. A basic quantitative analysis of scores on the Climate Change Performance Index provides some support for the theory but the existence of two substantially discrepant cases – the United Kingdom and Finland – indicates that it is overly simplistic. I explore these two cases further in considerable depth using an interdisciplinary, comparative case study approach, which brings to light a range of influential extra-theoretical factors, including climatic, geographic, demographic, economic, political, historical, and geopolitical factors. My findings therefore highlight the importance of a broader conception of national context to a fuller understanding of variation in national-level climate governance and suggest an additional, alternative evolutionary path for countries with liberal market economies and liberal welfare states. However, the findings also call into question the possibility of a fully developed eco-state, and the likelihood of ecological modernization as a definitive solution to global climate change, in the context of globalized capitalism.
Background: Despite the importance of housing to health, there continues to be a dearth of research on housing in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). The two types of housing available to low-income people in this area are social housing and single room occupancy (SRO) housing. This thesis sought to evaluate low-income housing in the DTES by: reviewing the literature on housing and health; and evaluating the impact of the housing environment on stable and unstable tenants’ change in health compared to 1 year before the survey was taken.Method: This is a secondary analysis of data collected in 2007 as part of the Downtown Eastside Demographic Study of SRO and Social Housing Tenants. Tenants were aggregated to the building level based on their length of tenancy. Stable tenants were classified as living at their address for more than 1 year, while unstable tenants had lived at their address for less than 1 year. Multiple-regression analysis was used to determine which factors of the housing-environment contributed to better health-outcomes at the building level. Results: The literature review found that no studies have taken a building level approach to exploring the health outcomes of tenants, despite numerous qualitative accounts of the importance of the building-environment. Multiple-regression analyses demonstrated that social housing significantly contributed to health for both stable and unstable tenants. Building level health was also significantly higher if stable tenants were satisfied with building management. Unstable tenants were adversely affected if there were reports of problems-with-safety in the building, especially if they also lived in SRO housing. Furthermore, problems-with-safety was linked to problems-with-drugs.Conclusion: Social housing in all analyses contributed to significantly better health compared to 1 year ago. Consistent with qualitative findings problems-with-safety are especially detrimental to health for tenants of SRO buildings. Interventions to reduce instability within low-income housing include the facilitation of a safe environment, which is likely related to the quality of building management. Evaluative measures, to ensure quality building management, are essential to promoting stability and health within both SRO and social housing buildings.