Evolutionary Analysis of Neighborhood Decline Using Multilevel Selection Theory

Russell C. Weaver, Sharmistha Bagchi-Sen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


This article proposes an analytical framework of neighborhood decline grounded in evolutionary multilevel selection (MLS) theory. We demonstrate that MLS allows for the unification of at least two distinct theoretical approaches-the ecological and the political economy approaches-to analyzing urban change. From these developments we generate three hypotheses about intracity dynamics. The hypotheses are tested with longitudinal data using space-time regression, simulation, and spatial hedonic methods. The methodology and results reveal that qualitative neighborhood change is endogenously determined through the actions of neighborhood households, but such that household actions and neighborhood sociospatial organization are shaped by externally driven sorting processes. Further, household behaviors are highly dependent on microlevel neighborhood contexts. These findings suggest that existing schools of neighborhood change are not mutually exclusive. Rather, their interplay at multiple spatial resolutions showcases the hierarchical and evolutionary nature of cities. Such insights can be usefully incorporated into urban policy discourses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)765-783
Number of pages19
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • decline
  • evolutionary urban geography
  • housing
  • multilevel selection
  • neighborhood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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