When Are Neighbourhoods Communities? Community in Dutch Neighbourhoods

B. Volker, H. Flap & S. Lindenberg

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Volker, B. , Flap, H. & Lindenberg, S. (2006). When Are Neighbourhoods Communities? Community in Dutch Neighbourhoods. European Sociological Review, 23(1), 99–114. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/esr/jcl022

Community formation , interdependency , meeting places , neighborhood

This study investigates the degree to which community can be found in Dutch neighbourhoods and attempts to explain why there is more community in some neighbourhoods than in others. We apply a perspective on community which assumes that people create communities with the expectation to realize some important well-being goals. Conditions that account for the creation of a local community are specified, i.e. the opportunity, ease, and motivation to do so. These conditions are realized when (i) neighbourhoods have more meeting places; (ii) neighbours are, given their resources and interests, motivated to invest in local relationships; (iii) neighbours have few relations outside of the neighbourhood, and (iv) neighbours are mutually interdependent. Data from the Survey of Social Networks of the Dutch on 1,007 respondents in 168 neighbourhoods are used. Results show that there is a sizeable amount of community in Dutch neighbourhoods and that all the four conditions contribute to the explanation, while interdependencies among neighbours have the strongest impact on the creation of community.

Main finding
Community is not disappearing as many would claim, but there was considerable variation found in the level of community in the Dutch neighborhoods studied. The level of community formation within a neighborhood is the result of many factors. The most critical factors were found to be neighbor interdependencies and investment in the neighborhood, i.e., how likely one is to stay, which often results from having young children. The level of community was also higher in neighborhoods with more social spaces such as parks, churches, and schools which function as meeting places for neighbors. Although the homogeneity of income levels contributes to the emergence of communities, neighborhoods with fewer resources (such as education) were surprisingly found to create more community. Finally, contrary to previously held assumptions in the research literature, the study finds that urbanization and ethnic heterogeneity are not significant conditions in community formation.

Description of method used in the article
Survey data was gathered in 1999–2000 as part of the Survey of Social Networks of the Dutch (SSND). The SSND conducted survey interviews in 168 neighborhoods for a representative sample of 1,007 individuals between 18–65. 40 out of the 500 Dutch municipalities were sampled to represent Dutch provinces while accounting for population, with 25 addresses randomly sampled from four neighborhoods in each municipality. Community was operationalized as the degree to which people realized four basic well-being goals in their neighborhoods: comfort, stimulation, affection, and status. The analyses controlled for age, sex, participation in the labor force, the neighborhood’s degree of urbanization, and the percentage of migrants. The survey data was further supported by information on Dutch neighborhoods collected from the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics.

Of practical use

Organising categories

3D / Digital / Datasets Survey
Physical types
Other Parks/Gardens
Geographic locations