Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Local businesses occupy an important role in society and the American imagination. Entrepreneurialism is valorized and €œmain street€ is often used as a populist shorthand in discussions of €œregular Americans.€ While sociologists and the lay public often identify the opening of new, higher-end businesses as an indication of impending gentrification, few sociological studies examine commercial gentrification or call into question relationships between local businesses and urban communities. This is a study of the roles and experiences of local businesses in two gentrifying neighborhoods in Chicago. Drawing upon ethnographic observation and qualitative interviews, I examine the role of local businesses in gentrification processes, where and why local businesses might participate in charitable giving or other socially responsible practices, and how businesses shape neighborhood residents' experiences of their communities. I identify distinct pathways into entrepreneurship among local business owners in these neighborhoods and develop a model explaining how commercial gentrification contributes to residential gentrification. I also point to the role of business owners and event organizers in the production of racially diverse or segregated spaces and highlight how changes in local streetscapes might produce or alleviate some residents' experiences of alienation from the neighborhoods. I conclude with suggestions for further research and public policies.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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