By going into the neighborhoods of real cities, Enos shows how our perceptions of racial, ethnic, and religious groups are intuitively shaped by where these groups live and interact daily. Through the lens of numerous examples across the globe and drawing on a compelling combination of research techniques including field and laboratory experiments, big data analysis, and small-scale interactions, this timely book provides a new understanding of how geography shapes politics and how members of groups think about each other.

Enos' analysis is punctuated with personal accounts from the field. His rigorous research unfolds in accessible writing that will appeal to specialists and non-specialists alike, illuminating the profound effects of social geography on how we relate to, think about, and politically interact across groups in the fabric of our daily lives.

Publisher:  Cambridge University Press

Publication: October 2017              

Online ISBN: 9781108354943


These marvelous studies of social geography, like all great social science, reveal the hidden forces that are too big or too small to see with the naked eye. Enos is a methodological omnivore of exceptional creativity and ambition who knocks it out of the park in study after study. From the housing projects of Chicago’s South side to the limestone walls of Jerusalem, Enos shows, with surgical precision, how our lives are unconsciously shaped by our arrangements on the surface of the Earth. This rigorous, insightful, and often poignant book will change how you see the world and your place in it. 

– Joshua Greene, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them


Among the most important and fascinating books about the uniquely psychological consequences of political geography ever written. Enos’s theory is not about the somewhat narrow consequences of rather intimate, interpersonal contact but about the impact of sharing geographic space with strangers of a different race. His theory, grounded in quite simple and basic insights regarding the psychology of perception and pattern recognition, comes to some less than optimistic predictions about our ability to live in harmony within densely populated but racially segregated places like most major cities around the world. His evidence from a variety of sources- lab experiments, natural experiments, and observational studies- support the notion that close contact combined with racial segregation along racial, ethnic, or religious lines powerfully undermines support for policies that might benefit the groups other than our own. It is sobering news, but perhaps now that he has uncovered the causes we can begin to imagine more effective ways forward.

– Nicholas Valentino, Professor of Political Science and Communication; Research Professor, Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan


In The Space Between Us: Social Geography and Politics, Ryan Enos charts new analytic territory in demonstrating the spatial foundations of political inequality.  Not content to rest on traditional approaches, Enos sets a high evidentiary bar by conducting a rigorous set of original and creative studies— including both laboratory and field experiments—that show how social geography gets into our minds and ultimately shapes the public sphere.  Methods designed to assess causality and social mechanisms are integrated with personal observations and descriptions of everyday life in the divided cities that still characterize America.   On the evidence presented, researchers and policymakers should reject the common idea that geographical space is merely a container for action and confront that it is instead a driver of political life.

– Robert J. Sampson, Harvard University and author of Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect. 


The Space Between Us forges important new ground in understanding one of the most vexing questions in modern political science, namely how social geography – the physical presence of people different from oneself – shapes political views and behavior. Ryan Enos’ cleverly designed experiments and analyses allow him to precisely isolate the effects of local context in ways that have eluded other researchers. By carefully deconstructing the psychological mechanisms by which local context shapes political views, and testing key aspects of this perspective across diverse settings, Enos demonstrates that the presence of a salient outgroup – defined by its size, physical proximity, and degree of segregation – causes negative and exclusionary changes in politics on the ground. And while this effect appears widespread across time and space, it is inherently dynamic as groups interact in the face of demographic change. This book is a must-read with important methodological implications for how we study social geography as well as practical implications for politics and public policy in diverse societies.

– Elisabeth Gerber, Associate Dean for Research and Policy Engagement; Jack L. Walker, Jr. Collegiate Professor of Public Policy; Professor of Public Policy; Professor of Political Science; Research Associate, Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan


Americans live in a deeply segregated nation; even the most progressive-minded among us tend to have neighbors, friends, and colleagues who are overwhelmingly of the same race. In this lucid and deeply original book, Enos demonstrates the profound consequences of this separation on politics, not just in America but in any segregated society. Using basic, well-established features of human psychology as his foundation, he provides a compelling alternative to narrow conceptions of political behavior as a simple matter of material self-interest, and draws a richer portrait of the ways that space, geography, and group allegiance affect the way we think and vote.

– Dylan Matthews, Senior Correspondent,


About the Author

Ryan Enos is Associate Professor of Government at Harvard University. He is a leading expert on the intersection of geography, psychology, and politics. His research has appeared in top scholarly publications, such as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Political Science Review, and in worldwide news outlets, such as the New York Times. Prior to earning his Ph.D., he was a high school teacher on the South Side of Chicago, an urban space which inspired much of his research. This is his first book.

Ryan D. Enos

Ryan D. Enos