Measuring neighborhood cohesion: A review and some suggestions

Research paper by Richard A. Smith

Indexed on: 01 Jul '75Published on: 01 Jul '75Published in: Human Ecology


A central focus of neighborhood studies has been on the cohesion of neighborhood social groups. When it has been studied as an independent variable, concern has been with the effect of varying levels of neighborhood cohesion on the behaviors of residents within the area. In studies of cohesion as a dependent variable, emphasis has been on changes occurring in the larger community and society which may affect the formation of cohesive neighborhoods. In most cases, however, the concept of cohesion has beeen inadequately conceptualized and measured. This paper discusses two considerations that are important in measuring neighborhood cohesion but are often neglected. These considerations refer to the number of separate dimensions of the cohesion concept and the system level at which the concept is measured. Four different dimensions of cohesion are discussed: use of local facilities, personal identification, social interaction, and value consensus. Differences between individual and structural measures of the concept are also discussed. A review of some of the ways in which neighborhood cohesion has been measured within the literature is provided, according to these two considerations. Some suggestions are made for constructing new measures, and an empirical example, concerned with land development, is presented to support the argument that cohesion must be measured on a number of different dimensions.