A Geographic Information System (GIS)-Based analysis of social capital data: Landscape factors that correlate with trust

Sohrab Rahimi, Michael J.R. Martin, Eric Obeysekere, Daniel Hellmann, Xi Liu, Clio Andris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The field of community sociology has yielded rich insights on how neighborhoods and individuals foster social capital and reap the benefits of interpersonal relationships and institutions alike. Traditionally, institutions and cultural factors have been lauded as catalysts of community social life and cohesion. Yet, the built environment and configuration of the landscape, including infrastructure, amenities and population density, may also contribute to community social capital. In this article, we embedded zip code-level responses from Harvard University's Saguaro Seminar's 2006 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey with a geographic information system. Specifically, we correlated responses on residents' general trust, trust of one's neighbors, and trust of members of other racial groups with local urban environmental factors and infrastructural indicators such as housing and street conditions, land use, city form, amenity access (e.g., libraries and schools), home vacancy rates, and home value. We conducted these tests at the national level and for Rochester, NY, due to its many survey responses. We found that housing vacancies drive down levels of social trust, as captured by homeownership rates and tenure, yielding higher levels of social trust, and that certain urban facilities correlate with high trust among neighbors. Results can inform urban planners on the amenities that support sustainable community ties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number365
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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