Skip to main content
Log in

Examining Walkability and Social Capital as Indicators of Quality of Life at the Municipal and Neighborhood Scales

Applied Research in Quality of Life Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Cite this article

An Erratum to this article was published on 30 March 2011


Walkability has been linked to quality of life in many ways. Health related benefits of physical exercise, the accessibility and access benefits of being able to walk to obtain some of your daily needs, or the mental health and social benefits of reduced isolation are a few of the many positive impacts on quality of life that can result from a walkable neighborhood. In the age of increasing energy costs and climate considerations, the ability to walk to important locations is a key component of sustainable communities. While the health and environmental implications of walkable communities are being extensively studied, the social benefits have not been investigated as broadly. Social capital is a measure of an individual’s or group’s networks, personal connections, and involvement. Like economic and human capital, social capital is considered to have important values to both individuals and communities. Through a case study approach this article argues that the generation and maintenance of social capital is another important component of quality of life that may be facilitated by living in a walkable community. Residents living in neighborhoods of varying built form and thus varying levels of walkability in three communities in New Hampshire were surveyed about their levels of social capital and travel behaviors. Comparisons between the more walkable and less walkable neighborhoods show that levels of social capital are higher in more walkable neighborhoods.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Institutional subscriptions

Fig. 1

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. The Saguaro Seminar is an initiative of Harvard University and was funded by Robert Putnam after the publication of his book on civic engagement in America- Bowling Alone. The short form social capital survey can be found at


  • Adger, W. N. (2003) Social capital, collective action and adaptation to climate change, Economic Geography 79(4).

  • Coleman, J. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal of Sociology, 94(Supplement), S95–S120.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dillman, D. A. (2000). Mail and internet surveys. The tailored design method. New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Emery, M., & Flora, C. (2006). Spiraling-up: mapping community transformation with community capitals framework. Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society. Vol, 37(1), 19–35.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Frank, L. D., Sallis, J. F., Saelens, B. E., Leary, L., Cain, K., Conway, T. L., et al. (2009). Development of a Walkability Index: Application to the Neighborhood Quality of Life Study. British Journal of Sports Medicine.

  • Frumkin, H., Frank, L., & Jackson, R. (2004). Urban sprawl and public health-designing, planning and building for healthy communities. Washington: Island.

    Google Scholar 

  • Halstead, J. M., & Deller, S. C. (1997). Public infrastructure in economic development and growth: evidence from rural manufacturers. Journal of the Community Development Society, 28(2), 149–169.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jarema, P., Halstead, J., & Conway, K. (2009). Civic Engagement and Land Use Policy Change: Does Social Capital Affect Ecosystem Service Flows? Paper Presentation Northeast Agriculture and Resource Economics Annual Conference, Burlington, VT, June 7–9.

  • Krizek, K. (2003). Residential relocation and changes in urban travel: does neighborhood-scale urban form matter? JAPA, 69(3), 265–281.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leyden, K. (2003). Social capital and the built environment: the importance of Walkable neighborhoods. American Journal of Public Health, 93(9), 1546–1551.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lund, H. (2003). Testing the claims of new urbanism: local access, pedestrian travel, and neighboring behaviors. Journal of the American Planning Association, 69(4), 414–429.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McCrea, R., Shyy, T., & Stimson, R. (2006). What is the strength of the link between objective and subjective indicators of urban quality of life? Applied Research in Quality of Life, 1, 79–96.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Michalos, A. C., Sirgy, M. J., & Estes, R. J. (2006). Introducing the Official Journal of the International Society for Quality of Life Studies: Applied Research in Quality of Life (ARQOL). Applied Research in Quality of Life, 1(1), 1–3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Norris, P., & Ingelhart, R. (2004). Sacred and secular: Religion and politics worldwide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Nussbaum, M. C., & Sen, A. K. (1993). The quality of life. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Oldenburg, R. (1999). The great good place. New York: Marlowe & Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • Prakash, S. & Selle, P. (2004) Investigating social capital: comparative perspectives on civil society, participation, and governance. New Delhi: Sage Publications.

  • Putnam, R. D. (1993). Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton University Press.

  • Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone. New York: Simon & Schuster.

    Google Scholar 

  • Requena, F. (2003). Social capital, satisfaction, and quality of life in the workplace. Social Indicators Research, 61, 331–360.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sirgy, M. J., Rahtz, D., & Swain, D. (2006). Community Quality of Life Indicators. Best Cases II. Social Indicators Research Series. Vol. 28. Springer.

Download references


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. The authors would also like to Patricia Jarema of the University of New Hampshire for her assistance in reworking this manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Shannon H. Rogers.

Additional information

An erratum to this article can be found at

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Rogers, S.H., Halstead, J.M., Gardner, K.H. et al. Examining Walkability and Social Capital as Indicators of Quality of Life at the Municipal and Neighborhood Scales. Applied Research Quality Life 6, 201–213 (2011).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: