Department or Program

African American Studies


This paper conducts a detailed economic examination of certain key neighborhoods in the city of Baltimore to understand the forces at play in the television series, The Wire, and also to use The Wire to better understand those neighborhoods. Lauding its realism, critics and scholars widely regard The Wire as popular culture’s most accurate depiction of the post-industrial American City. In an effort to describe the impacts of the economic landscape of Baltimore on human experience, this paper provides the first known empirical analysis of the effects of redlining on contemporary income and incarceration rates using rigorous statistical methods. Because it disproportionately disenfranchised black communities, redlining had a profound effect on the economic and social life of those communities. Using this analysis as a framework, this thesis describes the economic milieu of The Wire in an historical context and shows how specific economic policies and political dynamics lead to the poverty and violence portrayed in the show. This study demonstrates that deliberately enacted policies forced African Americans into specific metropolitan areas and that, simultaneously, public and private entities made concerted efforts to limit economic resources and opportunity in these areas. The Wire reveals the effects of this subjugation through multiple aspects of its narrative. The television series vividly represents inaccessible housing, the collapsing school system, the high crime rate, and the shortage of legal forms of industry—all of which are consequences of redlining. This thesis argues that the crime depicted in The Wire is a practical response to a lack of access to formal economic institutions. Broadly, it uses The Wire and detailed economic analysis to uncover how America’s inequitable policies have led to the Dickensian state of the contemporary American city.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Houchins, Sue

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 PDF File

Open Access

Available to all.