Neighborhood Metrics and Measures: Alternative Specifications and Tools
Methods: Five social work researchers who study neighborhoods will discuss their work and invite discussion and debate about alternative methods of delineating neighborhood units for research purposes and innovative methods of neighborhood measurement. Discussants will briefly address the limitations of current research due to the reliance on administrative definitions of neighborhood boundaries and the difficulty in obtaining data on neighborhood processes. Discussants will then present methodological advances that promise to overcome some of these limitations. Several of the discussants will report on how they have applied Geographic Information System tools to these problems. Examples will include the delineation of neighborhood boundaries based on intersecting street networks (e.g. T-communities) and resident drawn neighborhood maps. Additionally, the use of Google Street View will be evaluated as a novel technique to measure neighborhood conditions. There will also be a discussion of how to triangulate children’s and parents’ views of their neighborhoods and combine mulitple perspectives on neighborhood in social work research. Finally, the use of qualitative methods that incorporate narrative accounts and photographic images of neighborhoods will be covered. The roundtable will conclude by engaging the presenters and attendees in a discussion of the most fruitful directions and considerations of how best to incorporate these methodological advances into social work research on neighborhoods.
Contribution: This topic will contribute to the theme of this years’ conference because access to safe and healthy neighborhoods is a key element of a just society. Without valid methods of defining and measuring neighborhoods, it is difficult to monitor progress on this front or to produce scientific evidence about neighborhood effects that is compelling and leads to effective policy and practice with respect to improving neighborhoods for vulnerable populations of concern to social workers.