424: Neighbors

Do you know your neighbors?

Show notes and links:
The UK Independent
City Lab
New York Magazine
The Atlantic


Full episode script

In 2015, Melissa Dahl wrote in New York Magazine:

According to a recent report from City Observatory — an urban-policy think tank funded in part by the Knight Foundation — about one third of Americans say they have never interacted with their neighbors.

Compare that to the 1970s, when “nearly 30 percent of Americans frequently spent time with their neighbors, and only 20 percent had no interactions with them,” writes economist Joe Cortright, who used data from the General Social Survey to write the City Observatory report. “Today, those proportions are reversed.”

In 2013, the UK’s Independent wrote:

Around 17 per cent of people say that they have not spoken to any of their neighbours in over a month – this figure rises to three in ten of those aged between 18 and 34.

Meanwhile, 51 per cent of those with neighbours admit they don’t know their first names, according to research from Churchill Home Insurance, while 70 per cent are unaware of their full names.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard about homebuying is that while it can be tempting to be drawn in by a home, you should consider the fact that you are buying a spot in a neighborhood as much as you are a place to live. But is that really the case anymore? Given these statistics, it may not seem like it.

Why? Quoting from the CityLab article:

The way cities or neighborhoods are designed also might have something to do with the decline in neighborliness. “We live in more sprawling communities, where people are literally living further from one another,” says Cortright. In the 1950s, he writes, half of residents in the 20 largest metro areas lived in the principal city. Today, only 1 in 5 does.

Many have moved to suburbs, where living spaces have become more private. There’s been a boom in gated communities, which were designed to keep people of differing backgrounds out. And many spaces that brought communities together, like pools and gyms, have gone private. (There are about 5.2 million private pools today, compared to the 2,500 in 1950, according to the report.) Plus, living in suburbs means we’re commuting more—alone.

This isn’t a trend with no countertrend, however. As the Atlantic reported in 2016 about intentional communities where private living spaces are combined with communal kitchens, amenities, and communities,

“the Fellowship for Intentional Community, an organization that champions communities “where people live together on the basis of explicit common values,” lists 1,539 cohousing communities around the country, some already formed and others in the process of forming. That’s likely a low estimate, since plenty of shared-living communities aren’t reported to any national databases.”

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.