Common ground? Urban neighborhoods as survey respondents see them

Barrett A. Lee, Karen E. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Objective. Our research examines how urban residents define "neighborhood" and whether their definitions influence their answers to other survey questions. Methods. We use data from a 1988 Nashville, Tennessee, study to tap respondents' abstract neighborhood definitions as well as the symbolic and physical identities they attribute to their own neighborhoods. Results. Territorial meanings predominate among respondents when neighborhood is considered in the abstract, although few definitions are exclusively territorial in nature. At a more concrete level, individuals living near one another often give the same name for their neighborhood of residence but differ markedly in their reports of the area's physical size and complexity. Such differences do not have much impact on answers to vague-referent questions about neighborhood life (i.e., questions in which the concept of neighborhood is left undefined). Conclusions. The fact that at least some survey results appear relatively insensitive to respondents' definitional idiosyncrasies should reassure practitioners. We nevertheless recommend that a few items be included in survey instruments to help clarify people's understanding of neighborhood and other "quasi-factual" geographic concepts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)922-936
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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