In May 2019, The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) released a study, “The Importance of Place: Neighborhood Amenities as a Source of Social Connection and Trust.” A key finding included that the closer Americans are to neighborhood amenities, including parks and libraries, the more trusting and content they felt about their community, regardless of the neighborhood type (i.e. suburb, small town, large city). Those individuals who do not have easy access to these amenities are more likely to feel lonely or socially isolated. Interestingly, “Even after accounting for an individual’s social class, education, gender, and race, amenity access predicts feelings of community satisfaction, social trust, and social isolation.”
Further, an article in The Atlantic, “Having a Library or Café Down the Block Could Change Your Life” added commentary to the findings of this study.
“Many of the things that we lament are missing from our political and social life, such as mutual concern, a sense of belonging, and helpfulness, are found in greater degrees in communities that have a sense of place, or at least enough ingredients to make a well-rounded community. Urbanists have consistently found that proximity to core community assets such as grocery stores raise property values. These new data show that proximity has an even wider range of benefits, such that it should increasingly play a role in policy deliberations…We should factor these important findings about community design into how and where we build our schools, design our local workforce systems, and build more affordable housing. Communities that blend a healthy mix of amenities, such as schools, community centers, and grocery stores, improve our social well-being in ways that our arguments over politics never will.”
This study points to the role place plays in social wellbeing.