Tag Archives: Neighborhood

New Springer book on neighborhoods

I just saw this new book from Springer:

Neighbourhood Effects or Neighbourhood Based Problems?
A Policy Context

Editors: David Manley, Maarten van Ham, Nick Bailey, Ludi Simpson, Duncan Maclennan
ISBN: 978-94-007-6694-5 (Print) 978-94-007-6695-2 (Online)


Many of you may be able to get the whole thing free from Springerlink from your respective libraries. It has a lot of stuff on crime, but also health and lots on policy-relevant research, and most of the work is from the UK.

Spatial Polygamy and Contextual Exposures (SPACEs)

Stephen and I have a paper, entitled “Spatial Polygamy and Contextual Exposures (SPACEs): Promoting Activity Space Approaches in Research on Place and Health,” in American Behavioral Scientist. The abstract and full text is available here.

Briefly, this paper mainly argues that current research approaches to individual exposures to environment are confined to arbitrarily defined boundaries and overlook the fact that individuals’ daily life crosses these boundaries (the concept of spatial polygamy). To address this issue, we suggest that future social and health studies should take human mobility into account and develop innovative methods to capture the complexity of individual exposures to environment. Several recommendations are provided at the end of this paper.

We welcome any feedback or comments on this paper and hope to spark discussions that will advance spatial demography.



Baltimore’s linear neighborhoods in 1880

Baltimore Neighborhoods 1880I’ve been working for several years on a project that involves geocoding all the residents of several cities in 1880. Here is a historical puzzle. In the attached map of a portion of Baltimore, individual buildings have been coded as predominantly white or black. Almost always “predominantly” means all the residents are the same race.

I am used to thinking of neighborhoods as some sort of polygon, extending from a central core along the streets in every direction. In this case we see evidence of linear neighborhoods, where the “neighborhood” is defined solely by racial composition. Three north-south streets are nearly all black for many blocks (Dallas, Bethel, Durham),. The parallel streets are nearly all white.

First question: where have you seen this linear pattern before? I have not.
Second question: what is the source of this pattern on these particular streets? There must be some specific history to it.

I’ve made the red dots smaller on this map so that the black resiential pattern stands out more clearly. This section of the city was majority white.


A new “community” for spatial demographers

At the meeting of Specialists in Spatial Demography held in December 2011 at UC-Santa Barbara, organized by Penn State with NIH funding, a key issue identified by participants was that of conceptualizing various aspects of “community.” Whether the terms were neighborhood, place, locality, or community, participants varied as to whether there should be a social network-focused derivation of measurements or a “top-down” ecological-derivation.

For instance, Rick Grannis’ book. From the Ground Up: Translating Geography into Community through Neighbor Networks (2009; Princeton Univ Press) was held up as an exemplar of the social network-centric approach. Another argument was for an ecological approach since certain units “act,” such as city governments, county governments, and NGOs.

Certainly, the gravity of prior literature has taken the ecological approach, if for no other reason than pragmatism of data sources (e.g., Census Bureau’s tracts, block-groups, blocks). With the advent of “crowd-sourced” data that Dan Sui and others have written about as shaping our social network behavior and their new-found behavior, the network approach has legs!

Even the work of Charles J. Galpin—largely unknown to urban demographers but second-nature to most rural demographers—used a crude type of travel network measured by wagon-wheel ruts in dirt roads as shaping his conception of the “natural community” in Walton County, WI. The Chicago School used Galpin’s Experiment Station Bulletin as an exemplar with which to establish their more famous work in Chicago, built on an ecological conceptualization of the community. So both elements are in the roots of social community concepts.

The recent work by a young scholar now at CUNY-Hunter College—Carson Farmer (http://www.geo.hunter.cuny.edu/cfarmer/)—shows promise in how to use multiple characterizations of locality to identify “communities” from the data.

It would benefit us all to have some discussion of ideas about conceiving and measuring “community” in spatial demography. It’s certainly a cornerstone concept for our work, isn’t it? I’ve laid out some aspects of the Santa Barbara debate so please add to the mix!

Frank Howell