Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Neighbourhood environment clearly affects neighbourliness For a long time, I've been saying that neighbourliness can be 'designed-out', and asking why it cannot more deliberately be 'designed-in'. The literarure is gradually starting to accumulate and this question gets a little extra feeding from some interesting research recently published in Environment and behavior (subscription, online first). The researchers used measures of the physical environment in ten neighbourhoods in Portland, Oregon, and found 'a greater probability of higher levels of neighborliness as the total number of positive physical-environment characteristics increased.' Judiciously they used the neighbourliness index from the 2003 social capital report on the General Household Survey. Strikingly, the results were unchanged 'after controlling for race, self-reported health, perception of safety, years of neighborhood residence, age of house, market value of house, and proportion of homeowners in neighborhood.' The authors point out that causality is not demonstrated: conceivably, people who are disposed to be neighbourly give rise to neighbourly environments. But it seems more likely that it is the other way round, don't it? The picture I took some years ago in an area called The Roger in Joao Pessoa, Brasil. I've chosen it because it reminds us that there are probably quite a lot of features not solely to do with the physical environment, that influence neighbourhood interactions. Like for example: low volume of cars, favourable weather, people having stuff to do outdoors, dogs, children, impromptu seating arrangements contrived in community spaces and so on.

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