In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Neighborhood Social Cohesion

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Data Sets
  • Theory
  • Neighborhood Effects
  • Low-Income Neighborhoods
  • Measuring Neighborhood Social Cohesion
  • Race and Ethnicity

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Social Work Neighborhood Social Cohesion
Daniel Brisson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 June 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 June 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0183


Neighborhood social cohesion is the trusting network of relationships and shared values and norms of residents in a neighborhood. Theory suggests, and research supports, that there is a latent resource available in socially cohesive relationships that can be used to access real goods and services. For example, someone with strong, trusting relationships in the neighborhood can ask for help babysitting, they can alleviate stress by talking to a neighbor about a personal crisis, or they can get referral information from neighbors about a local food pantry in a month where they are short of money. Research supports that neighborhood social cohesion is an important mediator for family health, safety, and overall well-being. While social cohesion can be conceptualized at different aggregates, for example, communities, cities, or even nations, this bibliography focuses on social cohesion conceptualized at the neighborhood level. Neighborhoods represent the context for which social cohesion has the most proximal daily impact for social workers working with vulnerable families. The concept of neighborhood social cohesion is similar to other neighborhood social processes, such as collective efficacy, community capacity, sense of community, social capital, social networks, and social ties. The most popular of these concepts is social capital, which is widely used outside of academia to discuss the importance of social relationships as a means of acquiring capital. These related concepts have substantial overlap; they all involve social relationships and they are all concerned with how relationships benefit an individual actor. The distinctions between these neighborhood social processes are not always clear in the literature. Social ties are often conceptualized as a simple count of relationships. Collective efficacy includes informal social control, in addition to social cohesion. Social networks typically involve a methodological approach that focuses on linkages between people in the network. Community capacity refers to the skills and power embedded within the trusting relationships in a community. Social capital, the most popular, is often a catch-all for all the social processes that occur in a neighborhood or community. Many community-based anti-poverty programs, whether small and local or larger and international in scope, focus on the mediating power of neighborhood social cohesion to address negative aspects of the ecological environment in which individuals and families live. This bibliography is intended to provide a starting place for those interested in learning more about neighborhood social cohesion as a program and intervention strategy.

Introductory Works

These introductory works provide social workers with a broad and fundamental understanding of the literature related to neighborhood social cohesion. Putnam 2000 was on the New York Times bestseller list and represents what the majority of those outside of academia understand as neighborhood social cohesion. Sampson, et al. 1997 is the most widely cited scholarly article pertaining to neighborhood social cohesion, even though the article technically examines the relationship between collective efficacy and crime. Kawachi and Berkman 2000 provides a view into the important relationship between neighborhood social cohesion and health, and the article by Granoveter 1973, which is also a heavily cited piece, is important as it presents a somewhat contrasting view of the importance of neighborhood social cohesion.

  • Granoveter, M. S. 1973. The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology 78.6: 1360–1380.

    DOI: 10.1086/225469

    A highly influential work that posits weak within-network connections are essential to bridge across networks. The work is highly cited and is often used in contrast to the benefits of social cohesion within a group.

  • Kawachi, I., and L. Berkman. 2000. Social cohesion, social capital, and health. In Social epidemiology. Edited by L. Berkman and I. Kawachi, 174–190. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    This chapter in an edited volume provides a theoretical rationale and empirical evidence for the link between neighborhood social cohesion and health. This chapter is a good starting place for those interested in learning more about neighborhood social cohesion and health.

  • Putnam, R. D. 2000. Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

    This bestselling book popularized the notion of social capital, which is defined as the benefit of trusting, cohesive connections. Social capital can be conceptualized at many different levels including a state or country. However, when it is conceptualized at the neighborhood level, it looks very similar to neighborhood social cohesion.

  • Sampson, R. J., S. W. Raudenbush, and F. Earls. 1997. Neighborhoods and violent crime: A multilevel study of collective efficacy. Science 277.5328: 918–924.

    DOI: 10.1126/science.277.5328.918

    This article is one of the most highly cited social science articles ever and it demonstrates the mediating capacity of a combination of neighborhood social cohesion and informal social control, known as collective efficacy, on crime.

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