Browning, C. R., Calder, C. A., Soller, B., Jackson, A. L., & Dirlam, J.
Browning, C. R., Calder, C. A., Soller, B., Jackson, A. L., & Dirlam, J. (2017). Ecological networks and neighborhood social organization. American Journal of Sociology, 122(6), 1939–1988.
Drawing on the social disorganization tradition and the social ecological perspective of Jane Jacobs, the authors hypothesize that neighborhoods composed of residents who intersect in space more frequently as a result of routine activities will exhibit higher levels of collective efficacy, intergenerational closure, and social network interaction and exchange. They develop this approach employing the concept of ecological networks—two-mode networks that indirectly link residents through spatial overlap in routine activities. Using data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey, they find evidence that econetwork extensity (the average proportion of households in the neighborhood to which a given household is tied through any location) and intensity (the degree to which household dyads are characterized by ties through multiple locations) are positively related to changes in social organization between 2000–2001 and 2006–2008. These findings demonstrate the relevance of econetwork characteristics—heretofore neglected in research on urban neighborhoods—for consequential dimensions of neighborhood social organization.
Controlling for individual and neighborhood characteristics, the research indicates a positive relation between econetwork intensity and collective efficacy, intergenerational closure, and social interaction, as well as between econetwork extensity and collective efficacy and intergenerational closure. The authors suggest that extensity represents the presence of weak social ties, influencing generalized trust and prosocial norms, but unlike intensity, not supporting neighbor-based social interactions. The authors argue that their findings point to the importance of understanding activity patterns and interactions in public space.
Description of method used in the article
The researchers use longitudinal data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey to examine the effects of ecological networks ("econetworks") on social organization and the distinct effects of extensity and intensity. They define econetworks as nodes where individual routine paths meet, forming what they assume are preconditions for contact. These potential contact points are measured in relation to collective efficacy, intergenerational closure, and social interaction (using surveys) to test the impact of econetworks on social processes.
Of some practical use if combined with other research