Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Charles S. Aiken

Committee Members

Thomas L. Bell, Ronald Foresta, Benita J. Howell


In the past thirty years, the American public has developed a stereotype of poor urban neighborhoods. Most people equate urban poverty with blacks and Hispanics, female-headed families on welfare, crime, and dilapidated row homes. Academicians researching urban poverty are at least partially responsible for these images. Most urban poverty research has looked at northeastern and Midwestern cities, examined large cities, or assumed a nationally homogeneous type of urban poverty. These biases are most evident in recent studies on the underclass, which call for national government response to increasing poverty among inner-city blacks and Hispanics. As poor neighborhoods are affected by regional dynamics, city size, and local public policy, such studies oversimplify the nature of urban poverty.

This thesis focuses on poor neighborhoods in the urbanized area of Knoxville, Tennessee. Poor neighborhoods are identified as United States Census block groups in which 20% or more of the population is poor. A cluster analysis technique is used to categorize poor neighborhoods into types based on Census demographic, economic, and physical landscape variables. Historical data and field investigations are employed to check and interpret statistical results.

This research demonstrates that most of Knoxville’s poor neighborhoods are white neighborhoods in which residents own their own homes. The population characteristics, housing types, and landscapes of Knoxville’s white owner occupied neighborhoods are similar to those of rural Appalachia. Most residents of Knoxville’s white owner-occupied neighborhoods are members of two-parent families, employed, and not reliant on public assistance. Such urban neighborhoods are direct contrasts to prevailing perceptions of urban poverty and the underclass.

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