Naa Oyo Kwate

Naa Oyo Kwate

dates de séjour

11/09/2017 - 13/07/2018




Maître de conférences


State University of New Jersey

pays d'origine


projet de recherche

Reading the Street: Subjective and Objective Assessments of Neighborhood Charm and Disorder

Research on the social determinants of health has brought into bold relief the importance of social context and material resources. Studies on neighborhood context and health have shown that physical disorder (e.g., litter and graffiti) is associated with feelings of personal powerlessness and psychological distress, poor self-rated health, psychological distress and impaired physical function. These findings are particularly important for African Americans, who suffer from a disproportionate burden of morbidity and mortality from a wide spectrum of conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and who often live in neighborhoods marred by disinvestment. Perceived charm and disorder are more than simple visual assessments of objective cues. Researchers tend to use an essentialist framework in which visual cues are construed as unambiguous and natural in meaning, but responses to those visual cues are informed by individual experiences and freighted by racial and socioeconomic inequality. Research is needed to advance understandings of the processes by which individuals are more or less likely to perceive built environment characteristics as emblematic of physical disorder. As well, standard operationalizations of physical disorder need to be expanded, to move beyond relatively discrete instances of disarray or decay that belie the overall infrastructure in the neighborhood.

In the proposed project, I address these gaps in the literature by conducting secondary analysis of data derived from a range of methods and sources. From research studies conducted in New York City and Boston, I analyze neighborhood data including systematic social observation of neighborhood streets, census data, and municipal data; and human subjects data from probability samples of Black residents in New York City and White residents in Boston. Qualitative and quantitative data capture residents’ perceptions of neighborhood disorder and associations with health. The proposed research is ideal for a EURIAS fellowship, as the data have already been collected, and a 10-month period would allow protected time for analysis and writing manuscripts. The project will investigate how aspects of the physical and social environment intersect, and will complicate notions of disorder and charm as unambiguous and deterministic. The research will culminate in a set of journal articles that should find interest in a range of disciplinary audiences including sociology, psychology, public health and preventive medicine, African American and urban studies, and urban planning.


Naa Oyo A. Kwate, is Associate Professor of Human Ecology and Africana Studies. Trained as a clinical psychologist, her research centers on psychological and social determinants of African American health.  She is interested in individual level experiences of identity and inequality, and the intersection of these variables with more distal structural factors, particularly neighborhoods. Her research has been funded by the Department of Defense, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health.