Yorkville chosen for study on social ties with immigration

By Erika Wurst For Chronicle Media

The city of Yorkville, like many suburban communities, is becoming increasingly diverse in population and anthropologist Victor Ortiz is studying the impact and integration of the local Latino population in particular. (Photo courtesy of city of Yorkville)

“Hey neighbor!”

It’s a phrase that’s not used a whole lot these days as trends show social interactions between neighbors are waning.

Yorkville researcher and anthropologist Victor Ortiz was awarded funds from National Science Foundation to conduct research surrounding this fact. His question, as the suburbs become increasingly ethnic, is this: “What does the increase in racial and ethnic diversity in national residential patterns mean as social ties among all neighbors, not only across race or ethnicity, becomes weaker?”

Ortiz believes his work will help policy makers, city planners and social scientists to better understand what supports healthy neighborhoods during periods of widespread social change.

His hope is that his findings will contribute to improving the quality of life in American neighborhoods, and he’s starting with Yorkville.

A resident of the city himself, Ortiz said Yorkville was the perfect place to conduct his research.

“Yorkville is unique in some specific ways, particularly in terms of the Latino population,” Ortiz said. And that population is one he’s focusing on for his project. “I want to investigate how the increasing residential proximity of different ethnic groups living in the same neighborhoods affects their social interactions.”

So, in addition to data research–combing property records, census data, etc.–Ortiz is conducting surveys and interviews with Latino and non-Latino residents in an attempt to solve his lingering questions about social interactions.

“My hope is that by understanding the change, we might prevent a lot of conflict that is not necessary,” he said.

Five years ago, Ortiz began writing his project proposal. It took him three years to secure funding to get the project off the ground. Now, as he enters his field work phase, Ortiz is reaching out to Yorkville residents in hopes they can further his research.

Surveys have been sent out in the mail to about 600 people of both Latino and non-Latino backgrounds. Ortiz hopes to receive completed surveys from 64 Latino households and 64 non-Latino households. Following that, 64 structured interviews will take place.

Two adult respondents from each household will be interviewed when possible to help detect gender-related variations in his research, Ortiz said.

“The reception here has been wonderful,” he said or responses already trickling in. “It’s really fascinating to see how intelligent (the respondents) observations are. I’ll think ‘Wow! I’ve never thought about it that way.’…This research is important because neighborhood social cohesion affects both community security and quality of life.”

So, if you receive a survey, fill it out. If you see your neighbors, say hello, he said.