The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Neighborhood Metrics and Measures: Alternative Specifications and Tools

Saturday, January 19, 2013: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
Nautilus 3 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
Cluster: Poverty and Social Policy
Claudia Coulton, PhD, Case Western Reserve University, Kirk A. Foster, PhD, University of South Carolina, J. Aaron Hipp, PhD, Washington University in Saint Louis, Nicole Nicotera, PhD, University of Denver and Julien O. Teitler, PhD, Columbia University
Purpose: Social work researchers increasingly include the concept of neighborhood as a key factor in their theory and research. This reflects the growing consensus that where you live matters in terms of individual wellbeing and social inclusion. However, empirical research on neighborhoods has been hampered by ambiguity about what constitutes a neighborhood for research purposes and by the challenges of obtaining accurate measures of neighborhood attributes. Fortunately, progress is being made on various fronts that can improve the validity of neighborhood definitions and increase the sensitively and relevance of neighborhood measurements. This roundtable will discuss ways that the social work field can incorporate these new discoveries and techniques into their research related to neighborhoods.

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.

See more of: Roundtables