Streets Apart: Does Social Capital Vary with Neighbourhood Design?
While neighbourhood differences in social capital have been mapped, few empirical studies have considered the nexus between specific physical characteristics of communities and social capital. In this study we hypothesised that social capital would be positively associated with a more walkable street network design, but inversely associated with negative experiences and perceptions of neighbourhood environments. Data was gathered through a random cross-sectional telephone survey of adults (𝑛=339) from three suburbs with differing street network design. Although there was some relationship between street network layout and social capital, this was not always as hypothesised by previous studies. Perceived incivilities, lower levels of trust and support were among factors that may have countered some of the positive influences of a walkable street network design on social capital. Overall, our findings suggest that the built environment may influence neighbourhood social capital at both a real and perceived level. While the actual presence and type of facilities, neighbourhood design and walkability may impact on social capital formation and maintenance, so too can perceptions of the physical and social environment. Understanding the complex intertwining of physical neighbourhood features, perceptions and social dynamics is relevant to growing public policy interest in strengthening social capital for enhanced community wellbeing.
Wood, L., Giles-Corti, B., & Bulsara, M. (2012). Streets apart: Does social capital vary with neighbourhood design? Urban Studies Research, 2012, Article ID 507503. doi:10.1155/2012/507503