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Community attachment in the era of "communities"

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Around 20 years ago, Robert Sampson used data from the British Crime Survey to investigate the relationships between the characteristics of residential places and the social functioning of the communities therein, testing systemic models of communities and theories of community disorganisation (Sampson 1988; Sampson & Groves 1989). In the light of the recent focus on neighbourhood renewal and the rapidly developing policy interest in the notion of creating 'sustainable communities' in the UK (ODPM 2003), we take the opportunity to revisit some of the issues examined in this earlier work, using more recent data‐sets and a smaller spatial scale. To do this, we use the data from the Citizenship Survey 2005 for England and Wales, which has a nationally representative sample of nearly 10,000 people. At a spatial scale of around 1,500 people (a quarter the size of a ward and less than half the size of a US census tract), we then attach community contextual variables for each respondent derived from the census and other sources in order to investigate whether people's perceptions of community are associated with residential context as well as personal characteristics. We investigate whether certain dimensions of residential social mix have more influence upon community sentiments than other aspects, for example comparing the effects of social class mix with the influence of ethnic mix. We also consider whether some qualities of community are more susceptible to the influence of context than others through constructing composite measures of place attachment, sense of community, safety, collective efficacy and community engagement.

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