Robert Vargas
Robert Vargas B.A. DePaul University, 2007
Ph.D. Northwestern University, 2012
Office: Social Sciences 410 Phone: 773-834-2586 Email Interests:

Political economy of policing, urban studies, law, race, and mixed methods


Professor Vargas is a social scientist interested in research on cities, law, and race. His writing and teaching focus on identifying the political-economic forces shaping neighborhood conditions and city responses to social problems. His multi award-winning book Wounded City: Violent Turf Wars in a Chicago Barrio brought a political analysis to the study of urban violence by showing how ward redistricting shaped block-level violence in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. His second award-winning book, Uninsured in Chicago: How the Social Safety Net Leaves Latinos Behind (NYU Press), is a longitudinal and intersectional ethnography of uninsured Chicagoans' experiences with the Affordable Care Act. He has published in a variety of journals such as Social Problems, Criminology, and the Social Science and Medicine. Professor Vargas has won numerous awards such as the CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, the New Scholar Award from the American Society of Criminology, and the David Heoft Award for Newly Tenured Faculty at the University of Chicago. His research has been featured in numerous media outlets such as NBC News, Telemundo, Univision, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, and National Public Radio. 

Professor Vargas leads the UChicago Justice Project, a research group devoted to institutional change in cities. The Justice Project is pursuing two research agendas: the first is on block-level historical trajectories of homicide, and the second is on the political economy of policing. 

To schedule a meeting with Professor Vargas, please contact Jasmin Becerra ( 

Recent Research / Recent Publications


Vargas, Robert. 2022. Uninsured in Chicago: How the Social Safety Net Leaves Latinos Behind. New York: New York University Press.

Vargas, Robert. 2016. Wounded City: Violent Turf Wars in a Chicago Barrio. New York: Oxford University Press.

Journal Articles

Schachter, Simon, Eric Chandler, Kiran Misra, and Robert Vargas. 2024. "The Social Structure of Private Donations to Police." Working Paper.

Ternullo, Stephanie L., Angela Zorro-Medina, and Robert Vargas. 2024. "How Political Dynasties Concentrate Advantage Within Cities: Evidence from Crime and City Services in Chicago." Social Forces.

Vargas, Robert. 2022. “Four Ways Race and Capitalism Can Advance Urban Sociology.” City and Community.

Huq, Aziz, Robert Vargas, and Caitlin Loftus. 2022. “Governing Through Gun Crime: How Chicago Funded Police After the 2020 Protests.” Harvard Law Review Forum. Available at SSRN:

Vargas, Robert, Chris Williams, Philip O’Sullivan, and Christina Cano. 2022 “Capitalizing on Crisis: Chicago Responses to Homicide Waves 1920-2020.” University of Chicago Law Review 89: 405-439.

Vargas, Robert, Christina Cano, Paola Del Toro, and Brian Fenaughty. 2021. “The Racial and Economic Foundations of Municipal Redistricting.” Social Problems.

Vargas, Robert, and Lee Scrivener. 2021. “Why Latino Youth (Don’t) Call Police.” Race and Justice 11(1): 47-64.