Measuring community sustainability: exploring the intersection of the built environment & social capital with a participatory case study

  • Shannon Rogers
  • Semra Aytur
  • Kevin Gardner
  • Cynthia Carlson
Article

Abstract

Municipalities all over the globe seek to evaluate the sustainability of their communities and this process requires an interdisciplinary perspective. Walkability and social capital are important measures of sustainable communities that are not necessarily considered together in measurement schemes. Through a community-based case study, the following article examines the relationship between select measures of social capital and self-perceived walkability. Descriptive statistics demonstrated that higher levels of social capital existed in more walkable communities. More sophisticated analysis further supported this association. A community index was created from responses to questions about participating in civic engagement activities such as donating blood, attending a committee meeting or public hearing, interacting with individuals in various neighborhoods, and contributing to a community project. A trust index was also created with answers to survey questions about general trust and trust of neighbors and other members of communities. Multilevel models demonstrated that higher levels of walkability were associated with higher levels of participation in community activities, even after controlling for socio-demographic factors. Similar patterns were found for the trust index where higher levels of walkability were positively associated with positive responses to a variety of trust questions. Implications for sustainable communities policy and management are suggested.

Keywords

Social capital Sustainable communities Walkability Multilevel modeling 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The research described in this paper has been funded in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Graduate Fellowship Program. EPA has not officially endorsed this publication and the views expressed herein may not reflect the views of the EPA. We would also like to acknowledge the UNH Graduate School and the NRESS student support fund for their support of this research. We would like to thank Ben Brown, Sarah Kissell, and Joanne Theriault for their assistance with data collection. We also appreciate Kevin Leyden’s advice in the early stages of this research.

References

  1. Adger WN, Brown K, Tompkins EL (2005) The political economy of cross-scale networks in resource co-management. Ecology and Society 10(2):9–23Google Scholar
  2. Agnitsch K, Flora J, Ryan V (2006) Bonding and bridging social capital: the interactive effects on community action. Community Dev J Community Dev Soc 37(1):36–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Airriessa CA, Lib W, Leongc KJ, Chend ACC, Keithe VM (2008) Church-based social capital, networks and geographical scale: Katrina evacuation, relocation, and recovery in a New Orleans Vietnamese American community. Geoforum 39(3):1333–1346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. American Planning Association (APA) (2000) “Planning for Sustainability.” http://www.planning.org/policy/guides/pdf/sustainability.pdf. Accessed 15 October 2011
  5. Antal P, Dornblut S, McIver M (2005) New Hampshire resident views on the use, availability, and need for public transportation. University of New Hampshire Institute on Disabilities, Durham, (Report presented to the NH Endowment for Health, December 2005)Google Scholar
  6. Aytur SA, Rodriguez DA, Evenson KR, Catellier DJ, Rosamond WD (2007) Promoting active community environments through land use and transportation planning. Am J Health Promot 21(4):397–407, http://www.activelivingresearch.net/files/Aytur_AJHP_2007.pdf CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barclay S, Todd C, Finlay I, Grande G, Wyatt P (2002) Not another questionnaire! Maximizing the response rate, predicting non-response and assessing non-response bias in postal questionnaire studies of GPs. Fam Pract 19(1):105–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Berrigan D, McKinno RA (2008) Built environment and health. Prev Med 47(3):239–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bias TK, Leyden KM, Abildso CG, Reger-Nash B, Bauman A (2010) The importance of being parsimonious: reliability of a brief community walkability assessment instrument. Health Place 16(4):755–758Google Scholar
  10. Bourdieu P (1985) The forms of capital. In: Richardson JG (ed) Handbook of theory & research for the sociology of education. Greenwood, New York, pp 241–258Google Scholar
  11. Brondizio ES, Ostrom E, Young OR (2009) Connectivity and the governance of multilevel social-ecological systems: the role of social capital. Annual Review of Environment & Resources 34:253–278Google Scholar
  12. Brown M, Carnoy M, Currie E, Duster T, Oppenhiemer D, Shultz M, Wellman D (2003) White-washing race: the myth of a colorblind society. University of California Press, Berkeley, CAGoogle Scholar
  13. Bruntland G (ed) (1987) Our common future: The World Commission on Environment and Development. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  14. Calthorpe P (1993) The next American metropolis: ecology, community, and the American dream. Princeton Architectural Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  15. Coleman J (1988) Social capital in the creation of human capital. Am J Sociol Vol. 94 Supplement S95-S120Google Scholar
  16. Cornell University Department of Development Sociology (2010) The definition of sprawl. http://www.cals.cornell.edu/cals/devsoc/outreach/cardi/programs/land-use/sprawl/definition_sprawl.cfm. Accessed July 31, 2011
  17. Cronbach LJ (1951) Coefficient alpha and the internal structure of tests. Psychometrika 16(3):297–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dillman DA (2000) Mail and internet surveys. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. du Toit L, Cerin E, Leslie E, Owen N (2007) Does walking in the neighbourhood enhance local sociability? Urban Stud 44:1677–1695CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Duany A, Plater-Zyber E, Speck J (2000) Suburban nation—the rise of sprawl and the decline of the American dream. North Point Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. Emery M, Flora C (2006) Spiraling-up: mapping community transformation with community capitals framework. Community Dev J Community Dev Soc 37(1):19–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ewing R, Bartholomew K, Winkelman S, Walters J, Chen D (2007) Growing cooler: the evidence on urban development and climate change. Urban Land Institute, Chicago, ILGoogle Scholar
  23. Field J (2003) Social capital. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  24. Frank LD, Pivo G (1994) Impacts of mixed use and density on utilization of three modes of travel: single-occupant vehicle, transit, and walking. Transportation Research Record 1466. http://www.u.arizona.edu/~gpivo/Frank%20and%20Pivo.pdf. Accessed on Feb. 20, 2011
  25. Freeman L (2001) The effects of sprawl on neighborhood social ties: an explanatory analysis. J Am Plann Assoc 67(1):69–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. U.N. GAOR (1992) 46th Sess., Agenda Item 21, UN Doc A/Conf.151/26Google Scholar
  27. Greenland S (1997) Second-stage least squares versus penalized quasi-likelihood for fitting hierarchical models in epidemiologic analysis. Stat Med 16:515–526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hager MA, Wilson S, Pollak TH, Rooney PM (2003) Response rates for mail surveys of nonprofit organizations: a review & empirical test. Nonprofit Volunt Sect Q 32:252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Heckman J (1979) Sample selection bias as a specification error. Econometrica J Econ Soc 47(1):153–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jackson K (1985) Crabgrass frontier—the suburbanization of the United States. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  31. James S, Lahti T (2004) The natural step for communities—how cities and towns can change to sustainable practices. New Society Publishers, Gabrioloa, Island, BCGoogle Scholar
  32. Johnson MP (2001) Environmental impacts of urban sprawl: a survey of the literature and proposed research agenda. Environ Plann A 3(4):717–735CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Jones N, Sophoulis C, Iosifides T, Botetzagias I, Evangelinos K (2009) The influence of social capital on environmental policy instruments. Environ Polit 18(4):595–611CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kaplowitz MD, Hadlock TD, Levine R (2004) A comparison of web and mail survey response rates. Public Opin Q 68(1):94–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Levine J (2006) Zoned out: regulation, markets, and choices in transportation and metropolitan land use. Resources for the Future, Washington, D.CGoogle Scholar
  36. Leyden K (2003) Social capital and the built environment: the importance of Walkable neighborhoods. American Journal of Public Health 93(9)1546–1551Google Scholar
  37. Lopez R, Hynes HP (2003) Sprawl in the 1990s: measurement, distribution, and trends. Urban Aff Rev 38:325–355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Luke D (2004) Multilevel modeling. Part of the series. Quantitative applications in social science. Sage University Paper 143Google Scholar
  39. Miller E, Buys L (2008) The role of social capital in predicting and promoting feelings of responsibility for local environmental issues in an Australian Community. Australasian Journal of Environmental Management 15(4):231–240Google Scholar
  40. Narayan D, Pritchett L (1999) Cents and sociability: household income and social capital in rural Tanzania. Econ Dev Cult Chang 47(4):871–897CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nelson A, Dawkins CJ (2004) Urban containment in the United States: history, models, and techniques for regional and metropolitan growth management. Planning Advisory Service Report #520. American Planning Association, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  42. OECD (2008) Handbook on constructing composite indicators. Methodology & User Guide. http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/37/42/42495745.pdf. Accessed 20 October 2011
  43. O'Fallon LR, Dearry A (2002) Community-based participatory research as a tool to advance environmental health sciences. Environ Health Perspect 110(Suppl 2):155–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Oldenburg R (1997) The great good place, 2nd edn. Marlowe & Company, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  45. Owen N, Humpel N, Leslie E et al (2004) Understanding environmental influences on walking: review and research agenda. Am J Prev Med 27:67–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pike C, Doppelt D, Carr M (2010) Climate communications and behavior change: a guide for practitioners. The climate leadership initiative. http://www.thesocialcapitalproject.org/The-Social-Capital-Project/publications/climate-communications-and-behavior-change. Accessed 22 March 2011
  47. Portes A (1998) Social capital: its origins and applications in modern sociology. Annu Rev Sociol 24:1–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Portes A, Landolt P (1996) The downside of social capital. The American Prospect 26:18–21Google Scholar
  49. Pretty J (2003) Social capital and the collective management of resources. Science 302:1912–1914CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pretty J, Smith D (2004) Social Capital in biodiversity conservation and management. Conservation Biology 18:(3)Google Scholar
  51. Putnam R (2000) Bowling alone: the collapse and revival of American community. Simon & Schuster, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  52. Putnam R, Feldstein L (2004) Better together: restoring the American community. Simon & Schuster, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  53. Register R (2006) EcoCities: rebuilding cities in balance with nature. New Society Publishers, Gabriola IslandGoogle Scholar
  54. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Fall 2009) Active travel: The role of self-selection in explaining the effect of built environment on active travel. Activelivingresearch.orgGoogle Scholar
  55. Sander T (2002) Social capital and new urbanism: leading a civic horse to water? Natl Civic Rev 91(3):213–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Santos JRA (1999) Cronbach's alpha: a tool for assessing the reliability of scales. J Ext 37(2)Google Scholar
  57. Schafft KA, Brown DL (2003) Social capital, social networks, and social power. Soc Epistemol 17(4):329–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Schifferdecker K, Reed V (2009) Using mixed methods research in medical education: basic guidelines for researchers. Med Educ 43:637–644CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Singer J (1998) Using SAS Proc Mixed to fit multilevel models, hierarchical models, and individual growth models. J Educ Behav Stat 24(4):323–355Google Scholar
  60. Steele JL, Bourke AE, Luloff PS, Liao GL (2001) The drop-off/pick up method for household survey research. Journal of the Community Development Society 32(1):238–250Google Scholar
  61. Talen E (1999) Sense of community and neighborhood from: an assessment of the social doctrine of new urbanism. Urban Stud 36(8):1361–1379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wilson A, Navaro R (2007) Driving to green buildings: the transportation energy intensity of buildings. Environmental Building News. Sept. 1Google Scholar
  63. Wood L, Shannon T, Bulsara M, Pikora T, McCormack G, Giles-Corti B (2008) The anatomy of the safe and social suburb: an exploratory study of the built environment, social capital and residents' perceptions of safety. Health Place 14(1):15–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Woolcock M (1998) Social capital and economic development: toward a theoretical synthesis and policy framework. Theory Soc 27:151–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Yang Y (2008) A tale of two cities–physical form and neighborhood satisfaction in metropolitan Portland and Charlotte. J Am Plann Assoc 74(3):307–323CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© AESS 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shannon Rogers
    • 1
  • Semra Aytur
    • 2
  • Kevin Gardner
    • 3
  • Cynthia Carlson
    • 1
  1. 1.Natural Resources and Earth Systems Science Program & Environmental Research GroupUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Health Management and Policy DepartmentUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Civil Engineering Department & Environmental Research GroupUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

Personalised recommendations