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While sociologists have been concernedwith urban residents and their neighbor-
hoods since the birth of the discipline (e.g.,
DuBois [1899] 1996; Park and Burgess 1925;
Shaw 1929), the publication of Wilson?s The
Truly Disadvantaged (1987) and Massey and
Denton?s American Apartheid (1993) sparked a
renewed interest among scholars of urban
inequality in the role of neighborhood context
in the intergenerational transmission of pover-
ty. These works directly linked urban sociolo-
gy to stratif ication, mobility, and race. In
theoretical terms, neighborhoods became an

important context for the social processes driv-
ing stratif ication and racial inequality, and
neighborhood context was viewed as a causal
force in the lives of youth and adults. These
works set off a sustained effort to understand the
effects of neighborhood context on individual
outcomes, particularly for youth. Although there
is mounting evidence that neighborhood effects
are real causal effects (see Harding [2003] for
a review and evidence on this issue), social sci-
entists have only begun to uncover the mecha-
nisms by which such effects operate.

Cultural Context, Sexual Behavior,
and Romantic Relationships in
Disadvantaged Neighborhoods

David J. Harding
University of Michigan

When culture is invoked to understand the consequences of growing up in disadvantaged

neighborhoods, the isolation of ghetto residents from mainstream institutions and

mainstream culture is often emphasized. This article attempts to reorient current

theorizing about the cultural context of disadvantaged neighborhoods, particularly when

it comes to adolescent decision making and behavior. I argue that rather than being

characterized by the dominance of ?oppositional? or ?ghetto-specific? cultures,

disadvantaged neighborhoods are characterized by cultural heterogeneity: a wide array

of competing and conflicting cultural models. I apply this conception to sexual behavior

and romantic relationships among adolescents using survey data from Addhealth.

Analyses show that disadvantaged neighborhoods exhibit greater heterogeneity in

cultural frames and scripts and that, in more heterogeneous neighborhoods, adolescents?

frames and scripts are poorly predictive of their actual behavior.

AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 2007, VOL. 72 (June:341?364)

Direct correspondence to David J. Harding,
Population Studies Center, University of Michigan,
426 Thompson St., Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248
([email?protected]). Funding for this research
was provided by the National Science Foundation
(SES-0326727), The William T. Grant Foundation, the
American Educational Research Association, the
MacArthur Foundation Network on Inequality and
Economic Perfor mance, and by the Har vard
Multidisciplinary Program on Inequality and Social
Policy. An NICHD Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the
University of Michigan Population Studies Center
provided additional support. Katherine Newman,

Christopher Winship, Mich?le Lamont, Robert
Sampson, Christopher Jencks, Jal Mehta, Arland
Thornton, and four ASR reviewers provided helpful
comments on previous versions of this article. This
research uses data from Add Health, a program proj-
ect designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman,
and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by the
National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development, with cooperative funding from 17
other agencies. Persons interested in obtaining data
files from Add Health should contact Add Health,
Carolina Population Center, 123 W. Franklin Street,
Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 ([email?protected]).

Culture has been largely ignored in the empir-
ical effort to identify and understand the social
processes underlying neighborhood effects.
Indeed, scholars studying race and poverty have
shied away from discussing culture since the
early 1970s, after critics of scholars such as
Frazier (1966), Moynihan (1965), and Lewis
(1969) argued that cultural explanations of
poverty ignore structural barriers and blame
the victim (e.g., Valentine 1968; see Wilson
1987 for a review). In the interim, however,
cultural sociology has moved away from con-
ceptions of culture as an internally coherent set
of values and toward a view of culture as frag-
mented and composed of ?disparate bits of
information and .|.|. schematic structures that
organize that infor mation? (DiMaggio
1997:263). These ideas, however, have only
slowly found their way into the sociology of dis-
advantaged neighborhoods. As I discuss below,
new concepts in cultural sociology such as
frames, scripts, and repertoires have the poten-
tial to illuminate the social processes at work in
neighborhood effects.

When culture is invoked to help us to under-
stand the consequences of growing up in dis-
advantaged communities, emphasis is often
placed on the isolation of ghetto residents from
mainstream social networks and mainstream
culture. Wilson (1987, 1996) argues that the
out-migration of the black middle class and the
decline of manufacturing lead to neighborhoods
in which life is no longer organized around
work. Social interaction in isolated neighbor-
hoods leads to the development of cultural reper-
toires that are ?oppositional? or ?ghetto
specific,? adaptations to blocked opportunities
in the labor market and society generally.
Anderson (1999) invokes an alternative status
system among adolescents from underclass
neighborhoods to understand high rates of
teenage pregnancy and single parenthood.
Massey and Denton (1993) argue that racial
segregation and the concentration of poverty
lead to an ?oppositional culture? in inner
cities?an oppositional culture that upends con-
ventional norms and values in response to
blocked opportunities. ?As intense racial isola-
tion and acutely concentrated poverty have con-
tinued, ghetto values, attitudes, and ideals have
become progressively less connected to those
prevailing elsewhere in the United States. More

and more, the culture of the ghetto has become
an entity unto itself, remote from the rest of
American society and its institutions, and drift-
ing ever further afield? (Massey and Denton
1993:172).

This article aims to reorient current thinking
about culture in disadvantaged neighborhoods
and how it relates to adolescent decision mak-
ing and behavior. I reintroduce an idea that was
once a staple of theorizing about urban neigh-
borhoods?disadvantaged neighborhoods are
characterized by cultural heterogeneity (Shaw
and McKay 1969).1 I apply these ideas, coupled
with recent theoretical advances in cultural soci-
ology, to the analysis of adolescent sexual
behavior and romantic relationships. Using sur-
vey data from the National Longitudinal Study
of Adolescent Health (Addhealth) on frames
regarding teenage pregnancy and scripts for
romantic relationships, I show that disadvan-
taged neighborhoods exhibit greater hetero-
geneity in scripts and frames. I also investigate
the consequences of cultural heterogeneity for
two adolescent behaviors, premarital sexual
activity and the sequencing of events in roman-
tic relationships.

CULTURE, INEQUALITY, AND
NEIGHBORHOOD EFFECTS

Most recent work at the nexus of inequality and
cultural sociology has focused on the analysis
of class, broadly speaking (e.g., Bourdieu and
Passeron 1977; Bryson 1996; DiMaggio 1982;
Erickson 1996; Lamont 1992, 2000).
Increasingly, however, poverty scholars have
also employed cultural analysis, particularly in
documenting the cultural world of the urban
poor, describing how they understand their
options and make decisions with regard to work,
welfare, schooling, parenthood, and marriage
(Anderson 1999; Carter 2005; Edin and Kefalas
2005; Newman 1999; Young 2004). Recent lit-
erature on the role of neighborhood context in
the intergenerational transmission of poverty,
however, has less explicitly incorporated culture.

342??AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW

1 Shaw and McKay did not use the term cultural
heterogeneity but instead referred to ?different sys-
tems of values? and ?different forms of organization.?
As the term ?different systems of values? suggests,
they also employed a values conception of culture.

Two mutually compatible theories provide
explanations of neighborhood effects on indi-
viduals, and cultural concepts have been incor-
porated into them to different degrees. Social
organization theory argues that neighborhood
disadvantage leads to difficulties establishing
and maintaining order. Lack of resources, racial
and ethnic heterogeneity, and population
turnover result in fewer social ties and therefore
diminished social control?communities lose
the ability to regulate the behavior of their mem-
bers (Park and Burgess 1925; Shaw 1929).
Communities with denser social networks are
better able to articulate and enforce common
norms and values. In addition, local formal and
informal institutions affect the ability of neigh-
bors to maintain social control by influencing
norms and expectations and by providing con-
texts within which social ties are created and
strengthened. External institutions, such as
police, city government, and markets affect the
resources that are available for social control
(Bursik and Grasmick 1993). Collective effi-
cacy, defined as the ?social cohesion among
neighbors combined with their willingness to
intervene on behalf of the common good,? (p.
918) mediates the relationship between con-
centrated structural disadvantages (residential
instability, ethnic or racial heterogeneity, and
pover ty) and crime rates (Sampson,
Raudenbush, and Earls 1997). Collective effi-
cacy has been used almost exclusively to explain
neighborhood differences in crime, violence,
and delinquency outcomes (exceptions include
Browning, Leventhal, and Brooks-Gunn [2005]
on neighborhood collective efficacy and sexu-
al initiation).

Though social organization models are not
usually thought of as cultural models, they do
incorporate cultural elements. In the classical
formulation, social organization matters because
socially organized neighborhoods are better
able to enforce common values. In addition,
collective efficacy can be thought of as a cul-
tural concept, insofar as it is measured as resi-
dents? commonly held expectations or beliefs
about how others around them will behave when
faced with nonnormative behavior. Finally,
Small (2004) shows how cultural frames regard-
ing a neighborhood and its origins can impact
residents? willingness to engage in the collec-

tive activity and institution building that lead to
collective efficacy and social organization.

While social organization theory focuses pri-
marily on processes internal to the neighbor-
hood, social isolation theory emphasizes social
and cultural disconnections between neighbor-
hood residents and the outside world. Social
isolation theory suggests that residents of con-
centrated poverty neighborhoods are more like-
ly to be isolated from middle-class or
mainstream social groups, organizations, and
institutions (Wilson 1987). The joblessness
endemic to high poverty areas means many res-
idents are not connected to the mainstream labor
market, an important tie to the culture of mid-
dle-class life (Wilson 1996). The lack of
resources in high poverty neighborhoods makes
sustaining neighborhood institutions more dif-
ficult, further isolating neighborhood residents
from associated mainstream institutions. The
result is that social interaction in isolated neigh-
borhoods leads to the development of cultural
repertoires that differ from the mainstream.
Youth are socialized into a cultural environ-
ment that promotes behaviors, such as early
sexual behavior and dropping out of high school,
that are viewed as detrimental in the outside
world.

Most research grounded in social isolation
theory investigates the social connections of
neighborhood residents, finding that neighbor-
hood poverty predicts organizational participa-
tion and network ties to employed or
college-educated individuals, net of individual
characteristics (Fernandez and Harris 1992;
Rankin and Quane 2000; Tigges, Browne, and
Green 1998). Meanwhile, the cultural predic-
tions of social isolation theory have been left
largely uninvestigated. Social isolation theo-
rists have relied heavily on the notion of ?oppo-
sitional culture? from ethnographic research on
racial differences in educational performance
(Fordham and Ogbu 1986), extending the con-
cept to domains other than education (e.g.,
Massey and Denton 1993). Fordham and Ogbu
(see also Ogbu 2004), for instance, argue that
poor black students develop an oppositional
culture in which behaviors that promote aca-
demic achievement, such as speaking standard
English, doing homework, and engaging in class
discussion, become defined as ?acting white,?
as a response to inferior schools, discrimination,

NEIGHBORHOOD CULTURAL CONTEXT??343

and blocked opportunities.2 However, survey
research has rejected the claim that black stu-
dents are disproportionately sanctioned by their
peers for academic effort (Ainsworth-Darnell
and Downey 1998; Cook and Ludwig 1998).
Carter (2005) shows that behaviors unconnect-
ed to school achievement are at the heart of
notions of ?acting white? among poor black
and Latino youth. Moreover, cultural isolation
and the development of a ?ghetto-specific? or
?oppositional culture? in poor neighborhoods is
further challenged by both survey-based and
ethnographic research on attitudes among the
poor that finds very strong support for conven-
tional or traditional views about education,
work, welfare, and marriage (Carter 2005;
Dohan 2003; Duneier 1992; Edin and Kefalas
2005; Goldenberg et al. 2001; Newman 1999;
Solorzano 1992; Young 2004).

In short, there is little evidence that cultural
isolation is an accurate description of the cul-
tural context of poor neighborhoods. This arti-
cle proposes a new conception of the cultural
context of disadvantaged neighborhoods?a
conception that emphasizes the cultural het-
erogeneity of such neighborhoods and the con-
sequences of that heterogeneity for adolescent
decision making and outcomes.3

CULTURAL HOMOGENEITY/
HETEROGENEITY IN URBAN
NEIGHBORHOODS

The concept of neighborhood cultural hetero-
geneity has roots in previous work in urban
sociology and is consistent with much ethno-
graphic research on urban poverty. However,

cultural heterogeneity has been the subject of
only limited explicit theorizing, perhaps because
much foundational work on urban neighbor-
hoods rests largely on a view of neighborhoods
as culturally homogeneous. For example, Park
and Burgess (1925) and Gans (1962) viewed
urban neighborhoods as immigrant receiving
areas. Differences between neighborhoods were
viewed largely as the consequence of cultural
differences between immigrants? home coun-
tries. The culture that immigrant groups brought
with them was the basis of local neighborhood
cultures. These analyses, like those of many of
their contemporaries, viewed culture as rela-
tively homogenous within local contexts.

Not all urban sociologists, however, viewed
neighborhoods as composed of homogenous
subcultures. Shaw and McKay (1969) argued
that socially disorganized slum neighborhoods
present youth with a wide array of ?competing
and conflicting moral values,? both conven-
tional and unconventional, creating a break-
down of social control that leads to higher rates
of delinquency in such neighborhoods. Urban
ethnographers have also complicated the stark
divisions of ?ghetto culture? and ?mainstream
culture,? tending to see culture in disadvan-
taged neighborhoods as derived from main-
stream culture but modified or reinterpreted to
serve local needs and in response to blocked
opportunities (e.g., Anderson 1978; Bourgois
1995; Duneier 1992; Liebow 1967).
Nevertheless, because these works focused on
particular groups within urban neighborhoods,
there is little emphasis on cultural heterogene-
ity beyond subjects? attempts to distinguish
themselves from culturally defined others lower
in local status hierarchies. Suttles (1968), for
instance, highlighted cultural differences with-
in disadvantaged neighborhoods, but he focused
on those between ethnic groups that use differ-
ent communication devices and have different
cultural practices.

Hannerz (1969) was one of the first to rec-
ognize cultural heterogeneity not just across
groups residing together in a single neighbor-
hood but also in the actual use of culture by indi-
viduals. Though he draws on classic cultural
concepts such as norms and symbolic meanings,
he also introduces the concept of ?cultural reper-
toire.? For Hannerz, there are multiple forms of
culture: norms and values, meanings, and modes
of action, and each individual has a repertoire

344??AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW

2 Fordham and Ogbu (1986) are often interpreted
as arguing that academic success itself comes to be
defined as acting white within an oppositional cul-
ture, but in a recent article, Ogbu (2004) clarifies that
their argument was that behaviors that lead to aca-
demic achievement are what are defined as acting
white by poor black adolescents.

3 There are undoubtedly cultural dimensions on
which middle-class neighborhoods have comparable
or greater cultural heterogeneity than do poor neigh-
borhoods, such as political views, fashion prefer-
ences, or religious beliefs. The focus of this article
is on cultural dimensions related to individual out-
comes typically studied by poverty and inequality
researchers, such as sexual behavior.

of these. Local cultures can add to or substitute
for items in the mainstream cultural repertoire
and, thus, provide adaptations and reactions to
a given structural situation. Like Liebow (1967)
and Anderson (1978), Hannerz sees local cul-
ture as helping individuals come to terms with
contradictions between the wider society?s cul-
ture and the individual?s position in the social
structure. Yet, Hannerz makes it clear that ?ghet-
to culture? is not a monolithic entity but rather
a heterogeneous mix of fluid ideal-type lifestyle
groups (?mainstreamers,? ?swingers,? ?street
families,? and ?street corner men?). In ghetto
neighborhoods, members of these groups live in
close physical proximity, which often leads
them to construct exaggerated social hierar-
chies and distinctions (see also Newman 1992).
Countering the divisive moral judgments
between lifestyle groups, however, are the fam-
ily ties and spatial proximity that pull individ-
uals with divergent lifestyles into regular contact
and confrontation.

Consistent with the points above, some recent
research has demonstrated that within disad-
vantaged neighborhoods, there are multiple cul-
tural models available.4 For example, Newman
(1999) shows that even in neighborhoods with
high levels of joblessness, the majority of peo-
ple pursue activities consistent with mainstream
ideologies, such as working or going to school.
Anderson (1999) documents the presence of
both ?street? and ?decent? orientations among
those living in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Though they are in the numerical minority,
those with a ?street? orientation dominate pub-
lic space and public life in inner-city neighbor-
hoods.

The concept of cultural heterogeneity is also
broadly consistent with classic research tradi-
tions within the study of social stratification
focusing on class inequality. Parkin (1971), in
his analysis of the normative order of the work-

ing class, describes this order as composed of
a number of competing meaning systems?the
dominant, subordinate, and radical?each pro-
viding a different model of class stratification.
The result is a state of ?normative ambivalence,?
in which the working class draws from a ?reser-
voir of meaning? that is fed by these three dif-
ferent ?streams.? Rodman (1963) develops the
concept of the ?lower-class value stretch? to
explain how the lower classes can have a some-
what distinctive value system that is still derived
from the dominant value system.

In sum, prior research suggests that the cul-
tural context of disadvantaged communities can
be thought of as derived from mainstream cul-
ture but modified or reinterpreted to serve local
needs and in response to blocked opportuni-
ties. Most analysts recognize the presence of
multiple competing lifestyle groups (to use
Hannerz?s terminology) or orientations (to use
Anderson?s) within urban neighborhoods.
Culture within poor neighborhoods is not a sin-
gle entity but rather a heterogeneous mix of
lifestyles or orientations that individuals move
between or draw upon as necessary. Such a con-
ception is far from consistent with the view of
poor inner-city neighborhoods as places of cul-
tural isolation from middle-class culture and
institutions.

However, analyses of the role of culture in
explaining behavior in poor neighborhoods still
largely rest on social isolation models. These
analyses tend to identify subcultures that pro-
mote or justify particular behaviors as expla-
nations for those behaviors. For example,
Anderson (1999) explains adolescent sexuality,
gender relations, and teenage pregnancy in dis-
advantaged neighborhoods with the develop-
ment of a subculture in which early sexual
activity and early parenthood are normative.
The coexistence of these two incompatible mod-
els (one that describes poor neighborhoods as
containing a mix of nondiscrete cultural groups
and another that relies on cultural subgroup
explanations of behavior) creates an analytical
conundrum: If individuals draw from multiple
cultural lifestyle models, how can subcultures
hold such sway over behavior, action, or deci-
sion making? I propose that recent efforts to
incorporate new cultural concepts such as
frames, scripts, or repertoires into theorizing
about culture in urban neighborhoods provide
an important theoretical bridge toward better

NEIGHBORHOOD CULTURAL CONTEXT??345

4 I follow Quinn and Holland (1987) in my use of
the term ?cultural models,? which they define as,
?presupposed, taken-for-granted models of the world
that are widely shared (although not necessarily to the
exclusion of other, alternative models) by the mem-
bers of a society and that play an enormous role in
their understanding of that world and their behavior
in it? (p. 4). I consider frames and scripts to be two
types of cultural models.

understanding the relationship between culture
and behavior among adolescents in disadvan-
taged neighborhoods.

CONCEPTUALIZING CULTURAL
HETEROGENEITY

In any social context, from the perspective of
any individual, there are multiple cultural mod-
els available from which to choose (Fuller et al.
1996; Holloway et al. 1997; Quinn and Holland
1987; Swidler 1986). These models may be
overlapping or contradictory, and they reflect
ideas about how the world works, what appro-
priate goals are, and how to go about accom-
plishing things.5 To further unpack these issues,
I rely on three concepts: culture as repertoire or
tool kit (Hannerz 1969; Swidler 1986, 2001),
culture as frame (Benford and Snow 2000;
Goffman 1974; Small 2004), and culture as
script.

Swidler (1986, 2001) draws upon the concept
of cultural repertoire to develop a general con-
ception of culture that allows it to play a causal
role in influencing action.6 She sees culture as
a ?tool kit? of symbols, stories, and worldviews
that people use to solve different problems.
Under this model, culture is not a unified sys-
tem but a repertoire from which to draw. Culture
provides the components used to construct
?strategies of action? or ?persistent ways of
ordering action through time? and can thereby
have a causal role. The elements that make up
one?s tool kit come not just from direct experi-
ence or social interaction but also from the
wider culture through institutions such as the
media, schooling, and religion. The ability of
culture to predict behavior in the tool kit model
comes from variation in repertoires across cul-
tural groups or across individuals.7

In the analysis below, I measure two types of
cultural objects that may be present in an indi-
vidual?s or group?s cultural repertoire: frames
and scripts. Frames are ways of understanding
?how the world works? (Young 2004). They
encode expectations about consequences of
behavior and how various parts of the social
world relate or do not relate to one another. A
frame is a lens through which one interprets
events, and it therefore impacts how one reacts.
Benford and Snow (2000) emphasize that
frames are collectively constructed, often unin-
tentionally but sometimes intentionally. Frames
identify problems and assign blame, provide
solutions or strategies, and provide a rationale
for engaging in action. Like repertoires, frames
allow for cultural heterogeneity. Individuals can
have multiple contradictory or competing
frames that they deploy in different situations,
and frames may have various levels of speci-
ficity. Small (2004) shows that individuals in the
same neighborhood can and often do employ
distinct frames. He shows that frames are not
fixed, as young people?s neighborhood frames
change through interaction with neighborhood
activists of an earlier generation.

Scripts provide cultural templates for the
sequencing of behaviors or actions over time.
They are akin to Swidler?s ?strategies of action?
in that they show how to solve problems or
achieve goals. There need not be consistency
across various scripts or frames, as individuals
are often able to live with many contradictions
and inconsistencies. Therefore, one should not
think of frames and scripts as necessarily hier-
archically nested. Instead, individuals or groups
may possess or employ multiple contradictory
frames and scripts. People of a common culture
do not share a coherent, monolithic culture, but
rather a set of available frames and scripts,
objective structural conditions, and knowledge
of what others do and think. Sewell (1999) char-

346??AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW

5 A conception of culture as heterogeneous and
contradictory appears elsewhere as well. For exam-
ple, Sewell notes that ?social actors are capable of
applying a wide range of different and even incom-
patible schemes? (1992:17). He also describes cul-
tures as contradictory, loosely integrated, contested,
subject to constant change, and weakly bounded
(Sewell 1999).

6 Tilly (1978) is also credited with the development
of the concept of repertoire in his work on ?repertoires
of collective action.?

7 Swidler?s tool kit metaphor has been criticized for

failing to specify how individuals choose which ele-
ments of their tool kits to employ in different situa-
tions (Lamont 1992; Lamont and Th?venot 2000).
Lamont (1992) suggests that both proximate and
remote structural conditions influence such selec-
tions. For an example of comparison of repertoires
across cultural groups, see Lamont and Th?venot
(2000).

acterizes this level of coherence as ?thin coher-
ence.?

Though cultural heterogeneity is viewed here
through what one might describe as macro- or
mesolevel cultural concepts, it is important to
note that my conception is also consistent with
micro or interactionist perspectives on culture.
Implicit in Goffman?s (1974) analysis of frames
is the notion that multiple frames can apply in
any interaction, and that participants must work
to maintain the dominance of a particular frame
and often come into conflict over which frame
should govern a particular situation (see also
Goffman 1959). His discussion of ?out of frame
activity? acknowledges that multiple frames
can be present simultaneously, even if they are
not mutually compatible. The cultural hetero-
geneity approach also shares with interaction-
ist approaches the criticism of subcultural
analyses as assuming homogeneity and stasis
and defining culture in terms of values (Fine and
Kleinman 1979). Furthermore, interactionist
perspectives emphasize the role of local or
group cultures in mediating the relationship
between the wider social environment and indi-
vidual action (e.g., Fine 1979). As will be dis-
cussed below, the consequences of
neighborhood cultural heterogeneity are theo-
rized to occur in part through microlevel inter-
actions with neighbors with varying cultural
orientations or lifestyles and through local inter-
pretations of cultural information diffused
through the media.

NEIGHBORHOOD DISADVANTAGE
AND CULTURAL HETEROGENEITY

Why are adolescents in disadvantaged neigh-
borhoods presented with a more heterogeneous
array of cultural models from which to fashion
their beliefs and actions than are those in more
advantaged neighborhoods? Among disadvan-
taged neighborhoods, all but the most extreme-
ly poor neighborhoods contain a mix of
people?some are working and some are on
public assistance or involved in crime; some
individuals are high school dropouts and some
have attended college; families with middle-
class incomes live near families that are strug-
gling below the poverty line. Though many
middle-class blacks left inner-city neighbor-
hoods in the 1970s, many also remained there
(Patillo-McCoy 1999). This mix means that

adolescents will come into contact with people
with a wide array of lifestyles.8

In addition, cultural models do not just come
from immediate ecological factors or interper-
sonal interactions. Institutions that are decou-
pled from everyday interactions such as the
media, religion, and politics also contribute to
cultural repertoires and are another mechanism
by which youth in disadvantaged neighbor-
hoods are exposed to mainstream or middle-
class culture. For example, youth draw role
models from television and radio (Carter 2005,
chap. 5), the American dream provides a cultural
template for many of the poor (Hochschild
1995), feminism shapes how young mothers
think about economic independence and mar-
riage (Edin and Kefalas 2005), and religion
provides a repertoire for constructing strategies
of action in black communities (Patillo-McCoy
1998).

Residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods
are also often less able to control public behav-
ior or regulate those who deviate from main-
stream lifestyle choices. Consensus is weaker on
which behaviors are appropriate and inappro-
priate. A lack of strong social ties in such neigh-
borhoods means that social control is
diminished?local institutions are weak and
collective behavior is more difficult (Shaw and
McKay 1969). Residents of poor neighborhoods
also typically lack confidence that their neigh-
bors will intervene to stop public disorder and
so hesitate to do so themselves (Sampson et al.
1997). Such breakdowns of order can be self-
perpetuating, as residents lose touch with neigh-
bors as they retreat from the public spaces,
leading to further weakening of neighborhood
social ties (Venkatesh 2000). Similarly, Wilson
(1996) argues that the lack of social organiza-
tion in these neighborhoods makes ?ghetto-

NEIGHBORHOOD CULTURAL CONTEXT??347

8 There are of course many factors that determine
the capacity of culture to influence behavior.
Schudson (1989) outlines five ?dimensions of cultural
power?: retrievability, rhetorical force, resonance,
institutional retention, and resolution. I emphasize
retrievability, the availability or accessibility of a
cultural model or cultural object. Schudson suggests
that retrievability is highest when a cultural model or
object is physically present, institutionalized in com-
mon practice or public memory, or more salient
because it is more recent or more dramatic.

related behaviors? more acceptable, while the
lack of opportunities makes them necessary for
survival. As the number of individuals pursuing
?ghetto-related? behaviors such as early par-
enthood, reliance on public assistance, or street
hustling increases, the stigma attached to these
behaviors declines.

Of course, the mere presence of a mix of
mainstream and alternative lifestyles in disad-
vantaged communities does not necessar

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