Research and Biography

Virginia Parks is an Associate Professor at the School of Social Service Administration. Her fields of special interest include urban geography, urban labor markets, immigration, racial and gender inequality, residential segregation, and community organizing and development. She teaches courses at SSA in policy formulation and implementation and in community organizing and development.

In her research, Professor Parks analyzes the patterns and ramifications of spatial inequality, particularly as they manifest in urban environments at the intersections of race, ethnicity, and gender. Her primary interest is in how space and place bring about and mediate labor market outcomes, such as unemployment and low-wage work, for immigrants, native-born minorities, and women. A central concern informing Professor Parks's research and teaching is how local communities can respond to these patterns of inequality through various organizing and development efforts.

Professor Parks is a 2008-09 Russell Sage Visiting Scholar. Her project at the Russell Sage Foundation, with Dorian Warren (Columbia University), examines local political responses by communities of color to economic inequality and the plight of low-wage work through a comparative case study of two anti-Walmart campaigns: a campaign in Chicago, IL, that led to the passage and subsequent mayoral veto of the Big Box Living Wage Ordinance aimed at Walmart and the low-wage retail industry in 2006 and the zoning defeat of Walmart in Inglewood/Los Angeles, CA, in 2004. These cases reveal how, when, and with what success ordinary people--local residents and grassroots political actors--can exercise their political voice to influence urban economic development and the new economy of low-wage work.

Professor Parks received her Ph.D. in Geography and M.A. in Urban Planning at the University of California, Los Angeles. Before her life as an academic, Professor Parks worked as a community organizer.