Love Thy Neighbor: Built environment effects on social interactions

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Event Type: 
Seminar Series
Date and Time: 
Monday, February 22, 2016
2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Ragan Petrie
George Mason University

The physical layout of cities, neighborhoods and buildings affects the way in which individuals move from one place to another, enjoy local amenities and interact with others. Livable cities and neighborhoods can help attract businesses, jobs and talented individuals who are looking for a certain quality of life and social interactions. Policy makers, employers and communities seem to understand this and spend time and effort on the design of the built environment and space in which individuals live and work. In this study, we ask, does the built environment in communities affect social interactions and helping behavior among neighbors? We investigate this by conducting a natural field experiment on helping and a household survey in several communities with relocated populations in Shanghai, China. Our measure of helping is based on experimental treatments that allow us to observe whether or not neighbors are willing to help one another when the cost to do so is negligible. Individuals did not know they were in an experiment, and this allows us to observe helping in a natural environment.