Social Capital and Public Housing Residents' Perception of Neighborhood Safety
Methods: This study was conducted in 2 public housing communities located in a midsize, Southern city. Participants were randomly selected to complete a 63-item survey that focused on neighborhood safety, social capital, and demographic information. A total of 141 residents (91 in one public housing community and 50 in the other) participated in this study. Overall, 98.6% of the participants were African American; the majority were female (88.7%); 80.1% had annual incomes under $10,000; and 56.7% had high school diplomas or some college education. The average age of participants was 39 (range, 18-83). On average, participants lived in their neighborhoods for 6 years. A series of multiple regression analyses were conducted to determine which components of social capital best predicted public housing residents’ perception of neighborhood safety.
Results: Although Sampson and Graif showed that local networks, organizational involvement, and conduct norms are important components of neighborhood social capital, these components were not strong predictors of public housing residents’ perceptions of neighborhood safety. Collective efficacy (β = 0.46; p < .001) was the only component that predicted residents’ perceptions of neighborhood safety. Moreover, some of the individual dimensions of collective efficacy played an important role in perceptions of safety. Higher levels of police efficacy (β = 0.21; p < .05) and greater attachment to one’s neighborhood (β = 0.39; p < .001) predicted higher perceptions of neighborhood safety.
Conclusions and Implications: It is important to understand residents’ perceptions of neighborhood safety in terms of the degree of neighborhood social capital. However, for public housing residents, it may be more important to frame perceptions of neighborhood safety in terms of components of collective efficacy rather than broad multi-component social capital constructs.