Sense of Community and Informal Social Control Among Lower Income Households: The Role of Homeownership and Collective Efficacy in Reducing Subjective Neighborhood Crime and Disorder
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We examine the link between homeownership, collective efficacy, and subjective neighborhood crime and disorder. Although prior research suggests that homeownership provides social benefits, the housing downturn and foreclosure crisis, coupled with mounting evidence that people self-select into housing, raise questions about the role of homeownership. We adjust for respondents’ decision to own or rent using a nationwide sample of lower-income households. We account for demographic and neighborhood characteristics as well as ratings of individual efficacy. We present a structural equation model that identifies how sense of community and informal social control jointly contribute to collective efficacy. The latent collective efficacy construct mediates the impact of homeownership on resident’s perceptions of neighborhood disorder. Such perceptions matter because they have been linked to resident’s physical and mental health. Our findings demonstrate that when coupled with sustainable mortgages, homeownership exerts a robust yet indirect effect in reducing subjective neighborhood crime and disorder. Our model also links collective efficacy to neighborhood racial homogeneity, a finding which presents challenges for the study of diversity and community. We discuss sense of community research as well as sustainable mortgages and implications of the foreclosure crisis for the future of homeownership opportunities among lower income households and neighborhoods.
KeywordsHousing Mortgages Crime prevention Community development Asset building Neighborhood homogeneity and diversity
Funding for this study was provided by the Ford Foundation. Survey data was collected by RTI International. We thank Seb Prohn, Catherine Zimmer, Ling Wang, Sarah Riley, Tianji Cai, Jasperlynn Kao, and other researchers at the UNC Center for Community Capital for consultation and assistance. We also thank anonymous reviewers for helpful comments.
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