The Social Distance Scale, Emory S. Bogardus and Californian Interwar Migration Research Offside the Chicago School

in Journal of Migration History
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This paper investigates the Social Distance Scale as a method to measure the degree of resentment towards immigrant groups invented by the University of Southern California sociologist Emory S. Bogardus. It asks why it is the only theory emerging from the orbit of the Chicago School still in use today. First, it looks at how Bogardus’s research environment in Los Angeles differed from that of his mentor Robert E. Park in Chicago. Then, it examines how Bogardus’s involvement with the Methodist All Nations Foundation influenced his conceptualisation of social distance. Third, it asks how this approach differed methodologically from the Chicago School’s Assimilation Theory. It concludes that the reciprocal relationship between Bogardus’s research and his social involvement caused him to dissolve the scale from spatial and temporal settings and create a theory that became universally applicable.




Emory S. Bogardus, ‘Social Distance: A measuring stick’, The Survey (May 1, 1926) 169–208, 170.


 Cf. Robert E. Park, ‘The concept of Social Distance as applied to the study of racial attitudes’, Journal of Applied Sociology 8:6 (July/August 1924) 339–344, 340.


Colin Wark and John F. Galliher, ‘Emory Bogardus and the origins of the Social Distance Scale’, American Sociologist 38 (2007) 383–395, 391.


Wark and Galliher, ‘Emory Bogardus,’ 392; for a contemporary sociological application see Richard Alba, Blurring the color line. The new chance for a more integrated America (Cambridge 2009).


Tamme, ‘dark strangers’, 122, 124, 129.


Bergmann and Erb, Antisemitismus, 43–44.


Philip J. Ethington, ‘The intellectual construction of ‘Social Distance’. Toward a recovery of Georg Simmel’s Social Geometry’, Cybergo: European Journal of Geography 30 (1997), online: (accessed Dec. 20, 2012) 1–21.


Wark and Galliher, ‘Emory Bogardus,’ 384–5. Martin Bulmer has found a direct correlation between the 1919 Chicago riots and Park’s work for the Chicago Commission on Race Relations but there is no evidence as to how it affected Bogardus. Martin Bulmer, The Chicago School of Sociology (Chicago, London 1984) 74–75.


David G. Gutierrez, ‘The third generation. Reflections on recent Chicano historiography’, Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 5 (1989) 281–296, 283.


 See Sánchez, ‘Go after the Women’, 475–495; Gayle Gullett, ‘Women progressives and the politics of Americanization in California, 1915–1920’, Pacific Historical Review 64 (1995) 71–94; Yuko Matsumoto, ‘Gender and American citizenship. The construction of ‘Our Nation’ in the early twentieth century’, The Japanese Journal of American Studies 17 (2006) 143–163.


Omi and Winant, Racial formation, 16.


Dirk Hoerder, ‘Migration research in global perspective, recent developments’, Sozial.Geschichte Online 9 (2012) 63–84, 64; Bulmer, Chicago School, 311.


Wark and Galliher, ‘Emory Bogardus,’ 389. Bogardus noted that his Essentials of Americanization was based on his experience at the Chicago Northwestern University Settlement (Essentials, 9–10).


Robert A. McKibben, ‘If Christ came to our city or The Gospel for our city or some products of City Mission’, Missionary of the World Magazine (draft, June 1938), in All Nations Church and Foundation Records, Collection No. 0403, California Social Welfare Archives, Special Collections, usc Libraries (hereafter: ancf Records).


Wild, Street meeting, 77.


Bogardus, City Boy, 7–9, 145.


Wild, Street meeting, 85.


Emory S. Bogardus, ‘A Study of juvenile delinquency and dependency in Los Angeles County for the Year 1912’, Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology 5:3 (1914) 387–396.


Park, ‘Concept of Social Distance’, 341–343.


Bogardus, ‘Coöperative research on the Pacific Coast’, Journal of Educational Sociology 4: 9 (1931) 564–456.


Edward C. McDonagh, ‘Status levels of Mexicans’, Sociology and Social Research 33 (1949) 449–459, 452.


McDonagh, ‘Status levels’, 455–456.


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