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urban ecologythe study of the city in terms of the social characteristics of areas or neighbourhoods, which originated in the University of Chicago in the 1920s. High rates of immigration into Chicago from Europe in the first two decades of the 20th century led to rapid urban growth and change, and stimulated research into the nature of urban living, the origins of social problems and the processes of urban growth and change through competition for space, changing land use and succession of functions. The early industrial city could be seen as being composed of three concentric zones or areas – the concentric zone hypothesis. These were the factory and business centre, the surrounding area of working-class residence, and then the areas occupied by the middle and professional classes. This is a reversal of the situation in the preindustrial city where the richer classes lived close to the central business district within the protective walls of the city, while the poorer people lived outside the city gates. However, as the industrial city grows into a metropolis, three developments occur:
- some productive enterprises move out of the centre into new industrial zones or trading estates where rents are lower and there are better networks of communication;
- the retailing and business zone grows and spreads into the neighbouring residential zone;
- the overall size of the city grows and creates suburbs and out-of-town shopping and amusement areas. See also URBANISM AS A WAY OF LIFE, URBAN SOCIOLOGY, ZONE OF TRANSITION, URBANIZATION, HUMAN ECOLOGY.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000