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Direct Correspondence to: Elena Vesselinov, Department of Sociology, Sloan College, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208. E-mail: .


ABSTRACT: In this article we analyze gated communities as a nexus of social and spatial relations within the context of urban inequality. We apply Tickamyer's (2000) sociological framework for incorporating space into the study of inequality, which allows us to substantiate the arguments that the process of gating increases urban inequality. The contributions of this article are three: (1) We generate a new systematic theoretical approach toward the study of gated communities, which we consider as middle range theory; (2) We argue that gated communities reproduce the existing levels of social stratification and that they also define a new, permanent differentiation order in the spatial organization of cities in the United States (in this respect we also arrive at six hypotheses, which can be tested in future research); (3) We introduce the term “gating machine,” where the combination of the interests and actions of local governments, real estate developers, the media, and consumers suggest that prevailing structural conditions assure the future proliferation of gated communities.