Robert J. Sampson, Thomas Gannon-Rowley & Jeffrey D. Morenoff
This paper assesses and synthesizes the cumulative results of a new “neighborhood-effects” literature that examines social processes related to problem behaviors and health-related outcomes. Our review identified over 40 relevant studies published in peer-reviewed journals from the mid-1990s to 2001, the take-off point for an increasing level of interest in neighborhood effects. Moving beyond traditional characteristics such as concentrated poverty, we evaluate the salience of social-interactional and institutional mechanisms hypothesized to account for neighborhood-level variations in a variety of phenomena (e.g., delinquency, violence, depression, high-risk behavior), especially among adolescents. We highlight neighborhood ties, social control, mutual trust, institutional resources, disorder, and routine activity patterns. We also discuss a set of thorny methodological problems that plague the study of neighborhood effects, with special attention to selection bias. We conclude with promising strategies and directions for future research, including experimental designs, taking spatial and temporal dynamics seriously, systematic observational approaches, and benchmark data on neighborhood social processes.
There is growing evidence that residents are more likely to walk in attractive neighbourhoods, and that negative visual cues can deter residents from engaging in physical activity. This study explored the premise that house design and upkeep could inhibit the incidence of physical disorder in suburban streets, thus contributing to a more pleasant walking environment for pedestrians. Street segments (n 1⁄4 443) in new residential developments (n 1⁄4 61) in Perth, Western Australia, were audited for house attributes that facilitate natural surveillance (e.g., porch/verandah) or indicate territoriality (e.g., garden/ lawn upkeep), and physical incivilities. A composite index of street-level house attributes yielded highly significant associations with disorder (trend test p 1⁄4 0.001) and graffiti (trend test p 1⁄4 0.005), signifying that the cumulative effect of several key attributes had greater potential to discourage incivilities in the street than any single characteristic. The findings suggest house design and upkeep may contribute to the creation of safe, inviting streets for pedestrians.
The 'fear of crime' has been at the centre of political and policy debate for some time. The purpose of this paper is to examine critically the continued relevance of that debate in the light of findings from an in-depth two and a half year research project. The findings from that project suggest that the relation people have with crime, criminal victimization, and the fear of crime is mediated by the relevance of their relationship with their local community and their structural position within that community. Understanding the nature of these relationships suggests the question of trust is of greater value in highlighting who is and who is not afraid of crime.
Daniel Tumminelli O’Brien, Robert J. Sampson & Christopher Winship
The collection of large-scale administrative records in electronic form by many cities provides a new opportunity for the measurement and longitudinal tracking of neighborhood characteristics, but one that will require novel methodologies that convert such data into research-relevant measures. The authors illustrate these challenges by developing measures of “broken windows” from Boston’s constituent relationship management (CRM) system (aka 311 hotline). A 16-month archive of the CRM database contains more than 300,000 address-based requests for city services, many of which reference physical incivilities (e.g., graffiti removal). The authors carry out three ecometric analyses, each building on the previous one. Analysis 1 examines the content of the measure, identifying 28 items that constitute two independent constructs, private neglect and public denigration. Analysis 2 assesses the validity of the measure by using investigator-initiated neighborhood audits to examine the “civic response rate” across neighborhoods. Indicators of civic response were then extracted from the CRM database so that measurement adjustments could be automated. These adjustments were calibrated against measures of litter from the objective audits. Analysis 3 examines the reliability of the composite measure of physical disorder at different spatiotemporal windows, finding that census tracts can be measured at two-month intervals and census block groups at six-month intervals. The final measures are highly detailed, can be tracked longitudinally, and are virtually costless. This framework thus provides an example of how new forms of large-scale administrative data can yield ecometric measurement for urban science while illustrating the methodological challenges that must be addressed.
This paper considers the quantitative assessment of ecological settings such as neighborhoods and schools. Available administrative data typically provide useful but limited information on such settings. We demonstrate how more complete information can be reliably obtained from surveys and observational studies. Survey-based assessments are constructed by aggregating over multiple item responses of multiple informants within each setting. Item and rater inconsistency produce uncertainty about the setting being assessed, with definite implications for research design. Observation-based assessments also have a multilevel error structure. The paper describes measures constructed from interviews, direct observations, and videotapes of Chicago neighborhoods and illustrates an “ecometric” analysis—a study of bias and random error in neighborhood assessments. Using the observation data as an illustrative example, we present a three-level hierarchical statistical model that identifies sources of error in aggregating across items within face-blocks and in aggregating across face-blocks to larger geographic units such as census tracts. Convergent and divergent validity are evaluated by studying associations between the observational measures and theoretically related measures obtained from the U.S. Census, and a citywide survey of neighborhood residents.
Despite the fact that virtual environments are increasingly deployed to study the relation between urban planning, physical and social disorder, and fear of crime, their ecological validity for this type of research has not been established. This study compares the effects of similar signs of public disorder (litter, warning signs, cameras, signs of vandalism and car burglary) in an urban neighborhood and in its virtual counterpart on the subjective perception of safety and livability of the neighborhood. Participants made a walking tour through either the real or the virtual neighborhood, which was either in an orderly (baseline) state or adorned with numerous signs of public disorder. During their tour they reported the signs of disorder they noticed and the degree to which each of these affected their emotional state and feelings of personal safety. After finishing their tour they appraised the perceived safety and livability of the environment. Both in the real and in the simulated urban neighborhood, signs of disorder evoked associations with social disorder. In all conditions, neglected greenery was spontaneously reported as a sign of disorder. Disorder did not inspire concern for personal safety in reality and in the virtual environment with a realistic soundscape. However, in the absence of sound disorder compromised perceived personal safety in the virtual environment. Signs of disorder were associated with negative emotions more frequently in the virtual environment than in its real-world counterpart, particularly in the absence of sound. Also, signs of disorder degraded the perceived livability of the virtual, but not of the real neighborhood. Hence, it appears that people focus more on details in a virtual environment than in reality. We conclude that both a correction for this focusing effect and realistic soundscapes are required to make virtual environments an appropriate medium for both etiological (e.g. the effects of signs of disorder on fear of crime) and intervention (e.g. CPTED) research.
A number of recent studies have used surveys of neighborhood informants and direct observation of city streets to assess aspects of community life such as collective efficacy, the density of kin networks, and social disorder. Raudenbush and Sampson (1999a) have coined the term “ecometrics” to denote the study of the reliability and validity of such assessments. Random errors of measurement will attenuate the associations between these assessments and key outcomes. To address this problem, some studies have used empirical Bayes methods to reduce such biases, while assuming that neighborhood random effects are statistically independent. In this paper we show that the precision and validity of ecometric measures can be considerably improved by exploiting the spatial dependence of neighborhood social processes within the framework of empirical Bayes shrinkage. We compare three estimators of a neighborhood social process: the ordinary least squares estimator (OLS), an empirical Bayes estimator based on the independence assumption (EBE), and an empirical Bayes estimator that exploits spatial dependence (EBS). Under our model assumptions, EBS performs better than EBE and OLS in terms of expected mean squared error loss. The benefits of EBS relative to EBE and OLS depend on the magnitude of spatial dependence, the degree of neighborhood heterogeneity, as well as neighborhood's sample size. A cross-validation study using the original 1995 data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods and a replication of that survey in 2002 show that the empirical benefits of EBS approximate those expected under our model assumptions; EBS is more internally consistent and temporally stable and demonstrates higher concurrent and predictive validity. A fully Bayes approach has the same properties as does the empirical Bayes approach, but it is preferable when the number of neighborhoods is small.
This article examines the new phenomenon of “citizens’ groups” in contemporary Mumbai, India, whose activities are directed at making the city’s public spaces more orderly. Recent scholarship on Mumbai’s efforts to become a “global” city has pointed to the removal of poor populations as an instance of neoliberal governmentality as espoused by the Indian state following the “liberalization” of the economy in the early 1990s. However, in this case, it is these civil society organizations, not the state—whose functionaries in fact benefit from a certain element of unruliness on the streets—who are the agents of increased control over populations and of the rationalization of urban space. This article, based on fieldwork-based research, argues that the way in which citizens’ groups exclude poor populations from the city is more complex than a straightforward deployment of neoliberalism, and is imbricated with transnational political economic arrangements in uneven and often inconsistent ways. In particular, this article explores how civic activists in these organizations envision their role in the city, and how their activism attempts to reconfigure the nature of citizenship. For instance, civic activists consider themselves to be the stewards of the city’s streets and sidewalks, and wage their battles against what they consider unruly hawkers, a corrupt state, and a complacent middle-class public. Moreover, civic activists render street hawkers’ political claims illegitimate by speaking on behalf of the abstract “citizen” of Mumbai, thus implying that hawkers’ unions speak only on behalf of the vested interests of a single population. In this way, they mobilize a normative notion of civil society in order to exclude the vast segment of city residents who either sell or buy goods on the street. In doing so, the civic activists transform the discourse and practice of politics in the city, so that, ironically, while on one hand using the rhetoric of citizen participation, they in fact undermine the radically heterogeneous forms of democratic political participation the city offers.
Homelessness has been a perennial concern for sociologists. It is a confronting phenomenon that can challenge western notions of home, a discrete family unit and the ascetics and order of public space. To be without a home and to reside in public places illustrates both an intriguing way of living and some fundamental inadequacies in the functioning of society. Much homelessness research has had the consequence of isolating the ‘homeless person’ as distinct category or indeed type of individual.They are ascribed with homeless identities.The homeless identity is not simply presented as one dimensional and defining, but this imposed and ill-fitting identity is rarely informed by a close and long-term engagement with the individuals it is supposed to say something about. Drawing on a recent Australian ethnographic study with people literally without shelter, this article aims to contribute to understandings of people who are homeless by outlining some nuanced and diverse aspects of their identities. It argues that people can and do express agency in the way they enact elements of the self, and the experience of homelessness is simultaneously important and unimportant to understand this. Further, the article suggests that what is presumably known about the homeless identity is influenced by day-to-day lives that are on public display.
This study examined what factors best predict residents’ concerns about neighborhood safety. One-hundred and twenty-two participants were selected from a large, Midwestern metropolitan area. All participants lived in high crime areas. Participants completed a 22-item questionnaire that assessed their perceptions of neighborhood safety and vigilance. These items were clustered as: 1) Community care and vigilance, 2) neighborhood safety concerns, 3) physical incivilities, and 4) social incivilities. Police crime data were also used in the analyses. Our findings suggest that aspects of the broken window theory, collective efficacy, and place attachments/territoriality play a role in affecting residents’ concerns about neighborhood safety.
The article focuses on the relationship between street vendors and local authorities in Bangkok. We examine the goals, the means, and the effects of everyday regulation of street vending. We document how the district administration produces and maintains informality by creating a parallel set of rules where street vendors enjoy negligible rents and little competition. We provide detailed empirical evidence on earnings, rents, fines, and rules regarding commercial real estate. The district administration’s policy of “managed informality” results in a situation where more established informal vendors control less established ones. We hypothesize in the conclusion that the district administration’s parallel legal system adjusts to the population’s expectations in a political system where the law has little popular support.
Journal of Architectural and Planning Research (2013)
Weinreb, A. R., & Rofè, Y.
Feeling maps survey and map people's emotional responses to their environment as they walk through the streets of a particular urban area. This study describes the first application of feeling maps in long-term, ethnographic field research. It was conducted in Mitzpe Ramon, a small town in Israel's Negev Desert Highlands. Over the course of one year, an ethnographer individually accompanied 55 participants with diverse social characteristics on a set of seven walking routes. These routes included neighborhood spaces, open public spaces, and at least one view of the surrounding natural desert landscape. The locations where between two and seven participants spontaneously reported experiencing strong feelings (positive, negative, or mixed) based on a numerical rating scale and open-ended narration were identified as "affective clusters." Results suggest that people's shared feelings about specific places are influenced by the particular physical properties and characteristics of a given place. Making a contribution to cognitive mapping and environmental preference techniques, feeling maps enable researchers to share a participant's position and views of the landscape as he or she articulates emotions and memories related to those views. Replicable in any setting, this technique could be used to create and maintain spaces that are attractive, inviting, and emotionally pleasing variety of users.
The neighborhoods in which children grow up have consequences for their short‐ and long‐term well‐being. Although most neighborhood research measures disadvantage at the census tract level, more proximate physical characteristics of neighborhoods may be more relevant indicators of neighborhood quality for the well‐being of young children. Using the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, this study explores the association between these more proximate indicators of neighborhood physical disorder measured across childhood (ages 3 to 9) and early delinquency at age 9. Descriptive results (N = 2,989) indicate that exposure to neighborhood physical disorder across childhood is common among children in urban areas. Multivariate analyses suggest that exposure to neighborhood physical disorder, particularly for older children, is strongly associated with a higher likelihood of engagement in early delinquent behaviors, over and above family and census tract‐level measures of disadvantage. Associations remain robust to numerous supplementary analyses and alternate specifications.
Urban sociology has tended to study interactions between passersby and "street persons" with an emphasis on the ways street persons become bothersome, harassing, or dangerous. This article moves away from the focus on the ways interactions in public go awry and focuses on how individuals account for the mundane, everyday exchanges they have with strangers who seek their help. Based on interview data (N = 31) and qualitative analysis of data from an Internet survey (N = 110), this article suggests that the presence of beggars does not inherently symbolize urban decay to passersby and does not necessarily elicit anxiety, but instead provides a valuable texture of urban life. Further, the article argues that individuals, when justifying their responses to requests for help from needy persons (beggars) in urban spaces, use a variety of cultural strategies to maintain their perception of themselves as moral persons, both when they choose to help and when they refuse. Drawing from these findings, the article suggests that urban sociology and the sociology of risk would benefit from sensitizing their studies of public interactions to the diverse meanings individuals assign to them, rather than presupposing annoyance, anxiety, or fear as their predominant characteristic.
Fear of crime is one of the most important problems in our cities, even in low-crime rate areas. The aim of this paper is to provide evidence of the issues involved in the perceived risk of victimization and fear of crime in these contexts using the Structural Equation Model (SEM) technique. Five hundred and seventy- one people living in a working-class neighborhood of Barcelona answered a 45-item questionnaire including the following 7 constructs: perception of insecurity, previous threat experiences, social representations of insecurity, personal control and coping skills, potential aggressors, urban identity, and perceived environmental quality. Findings confirm the theoretical model, in which fear of crime is structurally related to: a) environmental features, b) personal variables, and c) social representation of unsafe places. In addition, we found that the role of social aspects is as important as that of environ- mental and psychological ones. Residential satisfaction and urban social identity appear as relevant variables.
Residents in a neighborhood view physical disorders as a potential incubator for negative incidents. Even though the disorders may not directly bring serious crime to the neighborhood, the poor physical conditions may affect residents in other ways, including increases in perceived physical disorder and fear of crime and decreases in neighborhood satisfaction. Focusing on the effects of physical disorder, this study examined the underlying associations between the actual upkeep, perceived upkeep, and neighborhood satisfaction using a structural equation model. The findings confirmed interrelationships be- tween factors; confirmed that as some categories of actual upkeep improved, perceived upkeep and neighborhood satisfaction improved; confirmed that as perceived upkeep improved, perceived safety from crime and neighborhood satisfaction improved; and confirmed that as perceived safety from crime improved, neighborhood satisfaction improved. The structural equation model showed that actual physical upkeep factors each had indirect effects on perceived upkeep, safety from crime, and neighborhood satisfaction.
In the last ten years environmental sociologists have started to explore the relations between human behavior and the physical environment. This study tests some of the ideas of Jane Jacobs on how neighboring and crime are affected by physical diversity in cities. While neighboring and crime are found to be related to diversity as defined by Jacobs, neighboring is not related to crime, which is also predicted by her theory. The implications for urban planning are considered.
The correlation between class and delinquency often observed in areal studies and assumed in prominent sociological theories is elusive in studies of individuals commonly used to test these theories. A restricted conceptualization of class in terms of parental origins and the concentration of self-report survey designs on adolescents in school have removed from this area of research street youth who were once central to classic studies of delinquency. We argue that street youth experience current class conditions that cause serious delinquency, and that life on the street is an important intervening variable that transmits indirect effects of control and strain theory variables, including parental class origins. Data gathered from nearly 1000 Toronto school and street youth are analyzed with important implications for the conceptualization of class and delinquency, testing and integrating sociological theories of delinquency, the measurement of delinquency, and the use of cross-sectional and longitudinal research designs. Our findings especially encourage incorporation of street-based samples into research on class-based aspects of theories of delinquency.
This article assesses the sources and consequences of public disorder. Based on the videotaping and systematic rating of more than 23,000 street segments in Chicago, highly reliable scales of social and physical disorder for 196 neighborhoods are constructed. Census data, police records, and an independent survey of more than 3,500 residents are then integrated to test a theory of collective efficacy and structural constraints. Defined as cohesion among residents combined with shared expectations for the social control of public space, collective efficacy explains lower rates of crime and observed disorder after controlling neighborhood structural characteristics. Collective efficacy is also linked to lower rates of violent crime after accounting for disorder and the reciprocal effects of violence. Contrary to the “broken windows” theory, however, the relationship between public disorder and crime is spurious except perhaps for robbery.
There are two purposes to the present study. Our methodological purpose is to develop and test a procedure and instrument for assessing crime- and fear-related features of the urban residential environment. We examine three classes of cues: symbols of social and physical disorder, territorial functioning, and architectural 'defensible space' features. Past research examining the physical environment correlates of fear of crime has relied almost exclusively on subjective perceptions of the environment rather than on independent and objective measures thereof. Our theoretical purpose is to test the 'disorder' thesis of Skogan, and Wilson and Kelling, that actual physical incivilities erode resident's confidence in their neighborhood and lead them to infer that serious local problems, unrelated to the physical environment, are serious. We conducted environmental assessments and resident interviews (n = 412) on 50 blocks in 50 Baltimore neighborhoods. The assessments demonstrated high levels of inter-rater reliability and concurrent validity, controlling for social class. Regression analyses showed that physical incivilities were independently linked to perceptions of social and crime-related problems. The results show that reliable and valid assessment of crime- and fear-related environmental features can be conducted. They also support the central kernel of the Wilson and Kelling, and Skogan thesis, that the actual presence of disorder-related cues engender perceptions of social and crime problems.
This article examines the relationship between immigration and urban renewal in Naples during the 1990s through the conflicting representations and uses of Piazza Garibaldi, a large piazza located in front of the city’s central railway station. As well as the hub of the city’s public transport network, since the mid-1980s this piazza has been the multifunctional space for a number of immigrant groups. Re-envisioned as the ‘gateway’ to the city’s regenerated centro storico (historic centre) during the 1990s, the piazza became a focus of public debates on security, tourism and, in particular, immigration. I examine how these issues intersected with political discourses about a renewed sense of citizenship in redefining the piazza as a strategic but problematic public space. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and analysis of local newspaper reports, the article looks at the ways in which the piazza has been appropriated by different immigrant groups for social and economic purposes, and how, at the same time, they have been excluded from discourses about a ‘new’ Naples.
Mooney, S. J., Bader, M. D. M., Lovasi, G. S., Neckerman, K. M., Rundle, A. G., & Teitler, J. O.
Ordinary kriging, a spatial interpolation technique, is commonly used in social sciences to estimate neighborhood attributes such as physical disorder. Universal kriging, developed and used in physical sciences, extends ordinary kriging by supplementing the spatial model with additional covariates. We measured physical disorder on 1,826 sampled block faces across four U.S. cities (New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, and San Jose) using Google Street View imagery. We then compared leave-one-out cross-validation accuracy between universal and ordinary kriging and used random subsamples of our observed data to explore whether universal kriging could provide equal measurement accuracy with less spatially dense samples. Universal kriging did not always improve accuracy. However, a measure of housing vacancy did improve estimation accuracy in Philadelphia and Detroit (7.9 percent and 6.8 percent lower root mean square error, respectively) and allowed for equivalent estimation accuracy with half the sampled points in Philadelphia. Universal kriging may improve neighborhood measurement.