Skip to main content

Mary Pattillo

ON LEAVE FOR 2019-20; Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and African American Studies; Institute for Policy Research Faculty Affiliate

Ph.D. in Sociology, University of Chicago, 1997
B.A. in Urban Studies, Columbia University

Research Interests:

Urban Sociology
Black Middle Class
Race and Policy


AFAM 215 Introduction to Black Social and Political Life
AFAM 365 Black Chicago
AFAM 460 Black Social and Political Thought (Graduate Course)


Mary Pattillo's areas of interest include race and ethnicity (specifically the black middle class), urban sociology, and qualitative methods. Pattillo uses the city of Chicago as her laboratory and strives to be an expert in Chicago history, politics, and social life. In her 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. Black Picket Fences won the Oliver Cromwell Cox Best Book Award from the American Sociological Association.

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. It won the Robert Park Best Book Award and a proclamation of the City of Chicago. Current research projects include a study of how parents negotiate school choice and how families make housing choices in Chicago.

Current research projects include a study of how parents negotiate school choice, the impact of housing on families and children, the effect of college match on racial and class stratification, and the prevalence and impact of monetary sanction in the Illinois criminal justice system. Pattillo also has a growing interest in race in Latin America.

Pattillo is a founding board member and active participant in Urban Prep Charter Academy, the first all-boys public charter high school in Chicago.

Recent Awards:

2008 Robert E. Park Award for Best Book in Community and Urban Sociology from the American Sociological Association

2004 Named Northwestern University Arthur Andersen Research and Teaching Professor

2000 Oliver Cromwell Cox Best Book Award, Racial and Ethnic Minorities Section, American Sociological Association

2000 Outstanding Academic Book Award, Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

Recent Book Publications:

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

Imprisoning America: The Social Effects of Mass Incarceration , Mary Pattillo, David Weiman, and Bruce Wester, eds. Russell Sage Foundation Publications, 2004.

Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Class , Pattillo-McCoy, Mary. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Back to top