Woman in a grey top standing in front of a window

Robin Bartram, PhD

Assistant Professor

969 E. 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

Office Location: E007

Areas of Expertise
Frontline Policy Implementation
Gender, Race, and Class
Law and Regulations
Policy Implementation
Urban Inequality

I study housing, with a focus on its physical and environmental aspects.

In my first book, Stacked Decks: Building Inspectors and the Reproduction of Urban Inequality, I show how building code inspectors in Chicago assess built environments to make inferences about their inhabitants. These assessments often cause them to act in unexpected ways, by protecting some of the city’s most precarious residents. The fact that urban inequality prevails in spite of these actions reveals the contours of persistent inequality.

My next book project uses interviews with homeowners, landlords, and city officials in Chicago and New Orleans to investigate how cities plan for aging housing stock, centering questions of health equity and environmental justice. Climate change presents moments of crisis and material rupture to buildings. By contrast, my research focuses on the slow, mundane process of dilapidation of built environments and its relationship to housing precarity. The book argues that the current legal and policy foci of housing justice (e.g., on evictions and on access to home ownership) are not enough to deal with the overlapping crises of climate crises, aging populations, crumbling housing stock, and legacies of environmental racism.

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Bartram, Robin. 2022. Stacked Decks: Building Inspectors and the Reproduction of Urban Inequality. The University of Chicago Press

  • Honorable Mention, ASA Community and Urban Sociology Robert E. Park Book Award
  • Reviewed/featured in Social Forces, The Journal of Urban Affairs, The British Journal of Sociology, Slate, South Side Weekly, Next City, CityWatch, WBAI Radio, New Books Podcast, The Nation

Bartram, Robin. In progress. How Things Fall Apart: Housing and Repair

Bartram, Robin. “Routine Dilapidation: How Homeownership Creates Environmental Injustice.” Online first. City & Community

Bartram, Robin. 2023. “Making Babies Pay Rent: Race suicide, and the Subsidization of Whiteness through Rental Housing.” Qualitative Sociology 46(1):1-20

Bartram, Robin. 2021. “Cracks in broken windows: How objects shape professional evaluation” American Journal of Sociology 126(4): 759–794.

  • Winner, ASA Altruism, Morality, and Social Solidarity Section Outstanding Published Article Award, 2022
  • Honorable Mention, ASA Sociology of Law Section article award, 2022
  • Honorable Mention, ASA Community and Urban Sociology Jane Addams article award, 2022

Bartram, Robin^ Japonica Brown-Saracino^ and Holly Donovan. 2021. “Uncertain Sexualities and the Unusual Woman: Museum Depictions of Jane Addams and Emily Dickinson.” Social Problems 68(1): 168–184.      ^ = equal authors

Bartram, Robin. 2020. “The Infidelity of Place: Medical Simulation Labs and Disjunctures in Pedagogical Places.” Sociology of Health and Illness 42(2): 293-306

Bartram, Robin. 2019. “The Cost of Code Violations: How Building Codes Shape Residential Sales Prices and Rents.” Housing Policy Debate 29(6): 931-946

Bartram, Robin. 2019. “Going Easy and Going After: Building Inspections and the Selective Allocation of Code Violations.” City and Community 18(2): 594-617.

  • Winner, ASA Community and Urban Sociology Section Student Paper Award, 2018

Bartram, Robin. 2018. “Emplacing Risks in the City: Class, Politics, Risk and the Built Environment of Women’s Residential Clubs, 1896-1917.” The Journal of Urban History 44(2): 219–238.

Bartram, Robin. 2017. “Housing Historic Role Models and the American Dream: Domestic Rhetoric and Institutional Decision-Making at the Tenement Museum.” Qualitative Sociology 40(1):1-22.

Bartram, Robin. 2016. “Housing and Social and Material Vulnerabilities.” Housing, Theory and Society 33(4): 469-483.

Bartram, Robin and Japonica Brown-Saracino. 2023. “Living the dream? The Realities of Female Homeownership” CityLab

Bartram, Robin. 2023. “Illinois needs a different kind of assistance for homeowners: home repairs.” The Chicago Tribune

Bartram, Robin. 2022. “Black women endure legacy of racism in homeownership and making costly repairs.” The Conversation.  Reprinted in Slate and The Milwaukee Independent

Korver-Glenn, Elizabeth, Robin Bartram, and Max Besbris. Forthcoming. “The Sociology of Housing Market Intermediaries,” in Sociology of Housing, Eva Rosen and Brian McCabe, eds.

Bartram, Robin. 2022. “What’s Wrong With Chicago’s Building Code” South Side Weekly

Bartram, Robin. 2022. “How Objects Guide Discretion and Counteract Stereotypes” Law in Action blog.

Bartram, Robin. 2022. Review of Preserving Neighborhoods: How Urban Policy and Community Strategy Shape Baltimore and Brooklyn. By Aaron Passell. New York: Columbia University Press. American Journal of Sociology 127(4): 1397-1399.

Bartram, Robin and Annika Bruno. 2022. Rebuilding Together New Orleans research report.

Korver-Glenn, Elizabeth, Robin Bartram, and Max Besbris. 2021. “The Sociology of Housing Market Intermediaries” SocArXiv.

Brown-Saracino, Japonica and Robin Bartram. 2020. “Emily Dickinson, “The Greatest Freak of Them All”?”  Public Books.

Bartram, Robin. 2019. Research brief for Chicago Department of Buildings.

Bartram, Robin. 2018. “Grenfell’s Problem Wasn’t Just Lax Regulation.” CityLab; The Atlantic Monthly.

Bartram, Robin. 2018. “How Urban Building Inspections Can Impede – or Encourage – the Expansion of Safe and Affordable Housing.” Scholars Strategy Network policy brief.

Bartram, Robin. 2017. “How historic role models leave no room for structural inequality at the Tenement Museum,” Work in Progress: Sociology on the economy, work and inequality.

Bartram, Robin. 2016. Review of “What Buildings Do” Gieryn, Thomas. 2002.  Theory and Society 31(1): 35-74. Invited contribution to “A Field Guide to Materiality for Cultural Sociologists” ASA Sociology of Culture Newsletter 22 (2).  

Bartram, Robin. 2015. “Infrastructures of Epistemic Moments: Buildings, Blackboxes, “Improvement,” and Neighbourhood Change,” in Architecture, Materiality and Society: Connecting Sociology of Architecture with Science and Technology Studies, Müller and Reichmann (eds.). Palgrave Macmillan.    
Bartram, Robin. 2015. “Material Evidence and Evidentiary Reasoning,” Qualitative Sociology 38(3):349-352. Review Essay of: Bartmanski, D and Woodward, I. 2015. Vinyl: The Analogue Record in the Digital Age; Chapman, D and Wylie, A. (eds.). 2015. Material Evidence: Learning from Archaeological Practice. Routledge; Lopez, S. 2015. The Remittance Landscape: Spaces of Migration in Rural Mexico and Urban USA.

Robin Bartram is an Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. She is also currently an Affiliated Scholar with the American Bar Foundation.

Prior to her arrival at the Crown Family School, professor Bartram was an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Tulane University.

Bartram has a has a PhD and MA in Sociology from Northwestern University and a MA in Sociology from Loyola University, Chicago.