Social capital and the built environment: the importance of walkable neighborhoods

Am J Public Health. 2003 Sep;93(9):1546-51. doi: 10.2105/ajph.93.9.1546.


Objectives: I sought to examine whether pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use neighborhoods encourage enhanced levels of social and community engagement (i.e., social capital).

Methods: The study investigated the relationship between neighborhood design and individual levels of social capital. Data were obtained from a household survey that measured the social capital of citizens living in neighborhoods that ranged from traditional, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented designs to modern, car-dependent suburban subdivisions in Galway, Ireland.

Results: The analyses indicate that persons living in walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods have higher levels of social capital compared with those living in car-oriented suburbs. Respondents living in walkable neighborhoods were more likely to know their neighbors, participate politically, trust others, and be socially engaged.

Conclusions: Walkable, mixed-use neighborhood designs can encourage the development of social capital.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Automobile Driving / psychology
  • Automobile Driving / statistics & numerical data*
  • City Planning*
  • Environment Design*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Humans
  • Ireland
  • Public Health
  • Research
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Social Support*
  • Walking / psychology
  • Walking / statistics & numerical data*