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Social Sci LibreTexts

17.4C: Urban Neighborhoods

  • Page ID
    8503
  • Neighborhoods are small units of social organization within a larger social area, such as a city or town.

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

    Name three classic qualities of a neighborhood

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

    • Neighborhoods have historically existed in every large urban area.
    • Neighborhood action tends to quickly produce visible results, particularly when compared to larger social units. Because neighborhood action involves interaction with others, such actions create stronger social ties among those inhabiting the area.
    • Neighbors socialize one another through significant numbers of face-to-face interactions.
    • The tendency of members of a neighborhood to share voting patterns and other views is called the neighborhood effect.
    • In Canada and the United States, neighborhoods are often given official or semi-official status through neighborhood associations, neighborhood watches, or block watches.

    Key Terms

    • neighborhood effect: Individuals in neighborhoods tend to vote similarly.
    • Social ties: Because neighborhood action involves others, such actions create stronger social ties amongst those inhabiting the area.
    • neighborhood: A division of a municipality or region, formally or informally divided

    A neighborhood is a geographically localized community within a larger city, town, or suburb. Neighborhoods are often social communities with considerable face-to-face interactions among members. While neighborhoods have expanded with industrialization and the development of even larger urban areas, neighborhoods have always existed. Archaeologists have demonstrated through excavations that pre-industrial urban areas contained neighborhoods. As is true in the present day, neighborhoods were historically generated by social interaction among people living near one another. They are extremely localized social units only a step above a household and not directly under government control. In this sense, neighborhoods are usually informal, rather than pre-planned by government agencies. In some pre-industrial urban traditions, basic municipal functions, such as protection, social regulation of births and marriages, cleaning, and upkeep were handled informally by neighborhoods rather than by urban governments. As is still commonly the case, neighborhoods in pre-industrial cities often had some degree of social specialization or differentiation. Ethnic neighborhoods were important in past cities and remain common in cities today.

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    Neighborhood Watch: Neighborhood watches are one form of semi-formal neighborhood associations that contribute to the regulation of crime in an area that is not an independent political unit. Neighborhood watch associations function under citywide police and have no legal authority as crime enforcement officers.

    Sociologists are interested in neighborhoods as small, localized social, economic, and political units. Neighborhoods are close to universal, as most people in urbanized areas would consider themselves to be living in one. Neighborhood action tends to quickly produce visible results, particularly when compared to larger social units. Because neighborhood action involves frequent interaction with others, such actions create stronger social ties among those inhabiting the area.

    In Canada and the United States, neighborhoods are often given official or semi-official status through neighborhood associations, neighborhood watches, or block watches. These may regulate such domestic matters as lawn care and fence height and provide other social services such as block parties, neighborhood parks, and community security.

    Though neighborhoods are less strictly regulated by government officials, this is not to say that neighborhoods lack political power. Indeed, sociologists and political scientists have found that individuals in neighborhoods tend to vote similarly in what is referred to as the neighborhood effect. The voting preference of a neighborhood tends to be formed by consensus, where people tend to vote with the general trend the neighborhood. Of course, this is not to imply pure causation, but rather than individuals with similar voting preferences choose to live in the same area. Socialization within neighborhoods is quite significant, particularly when this form of socialization involves significant face-to-face interactions with one’s neighbors.