Prentiss Danzler: Broken Home — Reconstructing the Terms of Mobility for Atlanta's Black Public Housing Families

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city view of Atlanta, Georgia featuring buildings, cars, street lights and a mural

Atlanta, Georgia. image / Ronny Sison on Unsplash


The public housing program was designed as a stepping stone into upward socioeconomic mobility when the first developments were constructed for White and Black households in the 1930s. White residents were able to save and move into private housing with greater speed than Black residents, who faced both external and internal constraints on their socioeconomic status. As a result of this decreased mobility, scholars and policymakers soon associated public housing developments with impoverished Black containment, categorizing it as the home of the underclass and those who are stuck in place. Using forty years of administrative data from the first Black public housing development in Atlanta, Georgia, and historical administrative documents, this paper examines how internal and external constraints shaped Black tenant mobility. It demonstrates how housing managers and their remarks shaped eviction rates —  and, by default, public housing's ability to advance Black tenant mobility —  through elite housing managers' moral judgments of impoverished Black families.


Prentiss Dantzler is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Faculty Advisor to the School of Cities at the University of Toronto. Previously, he held positions at Georgia State University (Urban Studies) and Colorado College (Sociology). As an interdisciplinary scholar, his research focuses on housing policy, neighborhood change, and residential mobility with a particular focus on urban poverty, social welfare policies, race and ethnic relations, and community development. Dantzler's work has been published in various academic journals, with recent articles in the Journal of Urban Affairs, Journal of Race, Ethnicity and the City, and City and Community. Prentiss received his Ph.D. in Public Affairs with a concentration in Community Development from Rutgers University–Camden. He also holds an M.P.A. from West Chester University and a B.S. from Penn State University.

Sponsored by the Beyer Memorial Fund 


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