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 and data artist interested in research on cities, law, and race, especially through a spatial lens. His writing, art works, and teaching focus on identifying and describing the forces shaping the conditions of communities. To date, the bulk of his work has focused on violent crime and health care. 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 shapes levels of block-level violence in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. He has also published in a variety of journals such as Criminology, Social Science and Medicine, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, and the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. His forthcoming book "Uninsured in Chicago: Latinos Making Ends Meet Without Health Insurance" (Spring 2022 with NYU Press) is a longitudinal and intersectional ethnography of uninsured Chicagoans' experiences with the Affordable Care Act.

With a team of undergraduate and graduate students at his lab (, Vargas is involved in three urban comparative historical research projects: first, on the effects of redistricting on spatial inequality, second, on block-level historical trajectories of homicide in Chicago, New Orleans, and San Francisco from 1870 to the present, and third, on the relationship between police departments and universities. 


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.

Camacho-Thompson, Daisy, and Robert Vargas. 2018 “Organized Community Participation and the Dynamics of Gendered Neighborhood Violence” American Journal of Community Psychology 62(1-2):87-100

Flores, Rene, and Robert Vargas. 2017. “Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Health Insurance Coverage: What has Changed After the Affordable Care Act?” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. 43(1):2055-71

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.

Vargas, Robert. 2014. “Criminal Group Embeddedness and the Adverse Effects of Arresting a Gang’s Leader.” Criminology 52(2):143-168. [Lead Article]

Vargas, Robert. 2011. “Being in “Bad” Company: Power Dependency and Status in Adolescent Susceptibility to Peer Influence.” Social Psychology Quarterly 74(3): 310-332.