Associate Professor
Deputy Dean of the Social Sciences

Office: Social Sciences 410
Phone: 773-834-2586


B.A. DePaul University
Ph.D. Northwestern University

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 ( 


Click here to read articles and essays. Click here for visualizations.

Vargas, Robert. 2022. "Four Ways Race and Capitalism Can Advance Urban Sociology." City and Community [Forthcoming].

Huq, Aziz Z. Robert Vargas, and Caitlin Loftus. 2022. "Governing Through Gun Crime: How Chicago Funded Police After the 2020 BLM Protests." Harvard Law Review Forum [Forthcoming].

Vargas, Robert, Chris Williams, Philip O’Sullivan, and Christina Cano. 2021 “Capitalizing on Crisis: Chicago Responses to Homicide Waves 1920-2020.” University of Chicago Law Review 89(2):405-39.

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

Vargas, Robert, Kayla Prieto-Hodge, and Jeremy Christofferson. 2019. “Digital Vulnerability: The Unequal Risk of E-Contact with the Criminal Justice System.” RSF: Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 5(1):71-88.

Vargas, Robert. 2019. "Gangstering Grants: Bringing Power to Collective Efficacy Theory." City and Community. 18(1):369-91.

Vargas, Robert, and Lee Scrivener. 2018. “Why Latino Youth (Don’t) Call Police.” Race and Justice. 1:1-18.

Vargas, Robert and Phil McHarris. 2016. “Race and State in City Police Spending Growth: 1980-2010.” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 3(1):96-112.

Vargas, Robert. 2016. “How Health Navigators Legitimize the Affordable Care Act to the Uninsured Poor.” Social Science and Medicine Vol 165:263-270.