November 14, 2006

Suburbs more social

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at November 14, 2006 7:18 PM

I was surprised to learn of this study that found that residents of suburbs are more social than urbanites:

A new study says that people who live in sprawling suburban areas have more friends, better community involvement and more frequent contact with their neighbours than urbanites who are wedged in side-by-side. The results challenge the accepted idea that suburban life is socially alienating a notion that's inspired everything from the Academy Award-winning American Beauty to Harvard professor Robert Putnam's book Bowling Alone.

The study, released by the University of California at Irvine, found that for every 10 per cent decrease in population density, the chances of people talking to their neighbours weekly increases by 10 per cent, and the likelihood they belong to hobby-based clubs jumps by 15 per cent.

(Via Marginal Revolution.) An urban planning professor interviewed in the news article suggests that this is due to greater homogeneity in the suburbs, so that one has more in common with one's neighbors. That sounds plausible.

Tags: Life

American Beauty is a great film.

I need to pass this along to one of my former students, who has chosen to pursue a Masters degree in urban planning rather than math (and who a couple months ago IMed because she thought I would be able to identify some cartoon frog).

Posted by: Mason | November 14, 2006 8:20 PM

Interesting, though I can't really say it surprises me. One of the least social times in my life was living in Los Angeles, in the fairly urban West LA area. You tend to ignore your neighbors in a higher density area, while in much lower density areas they are the only humanity you may see.

It also means that in lower density areas you need to work harder to find people who share your interests, thus the hobby related clubs and the like.

Posted by: Chris L-S | November 14, 2006 8:33 PM

Interesting, but not surprising (to echo Chris). Despite living in the same apartment for over 2 years, I don't know the name of a single person who lives in the complex.

I wonder whether there's also a correlation to housing turnover rate? Do people who live in big cities move around more often? It's probably inaccurate, but I have an image in my mind of people moving to a house in the suburbs and then staying there for 20 years. My apartment complex has a very high turnover rate despite being filled with families and older people (not just students who are expected to be mobile).

The article includes comments from suburbanites who talk about not being in a hurry to get places and not sitting in traffic. I find this amusing considering that the WORST commmutes I've heard of in southern California are made by people who live in suburbs but have to commute to get to jobs in more population-dense areas. I'm talking 90min+ commutes, say from Orange County to LA, vice versa, or Temecula to San Diego.

Posted by: Jolene | November 16, 2006 10:23 AM

I have utterly failed to meet my neighbors in suburbs, big cities, and small towns. I do know two names (one of which is the landlady's), but I have lived in my current place since June 05 and the total amount of time I have spent talking to people is about an hour if you can't the landlady and her husband and 5 or so minutes if you don't---which is actually quite a shame because there are people in my apartment I'd be interested in talking to if I could get myself to be social enough to do it.

Posted by: Mason | November 16, 2006 7:22 PM

In the suburbs you can't hear the intimate details of your neighbors lives. I don't want to have faces to match to the noises coming through the walls.

Posted by: Jenny | November 17, 2006 10:05 AM

Hey, Jenny has a blog!

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | November 17, 2006 2:53 PM
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