Love the place you live: The effect of student transients and college embeddedness on perceptions of neighborhood stability and safety
Gehl, Danis J
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This study extends research on the impact that institutions of higher education have on nearby neighborhoods by examining the effect of the continuous infusion of institutionally linked transient residents on these neighborhoods. This structured transience found in college neighborhoods creates two major groups of residents---long-term residents and student transients. A long tradition of research suggests that this is likely to affect overall levels of attachment and cohesion in these neighborhoods, as well as the degree of social organization and perceptions of neighborhood safety and stability. These questions guided the study: What are the effects of the proportion of student transients on residents' assessment of attachment and cohesion? Does the proportion of student transients in a neighborhood affect occupants' perceptions of its stability and safety? Thirdly, are student transients' attachment to the local community and use of social controls influenced by how embedded their social relationships are within the college or university? Finally, in predicting how people relate to neighborhoods, are individual characteristics, such as owner status, more important than neighborhood composition? Survey data, gathered using a self-administered questionnaire, in two census tracts in Buffalo, NY, adjacent to public institutions of higher education, were analyzed at the block and the individual level using linear regression and analysis of variance. Findings suggest that, with the exception of stability, the social composition of the block (proportion of student transients) does not explain variations in the outcome variables: attachment, cohesion and perceived safety and stability. Individual characteristics of residents (student status, college embedded social ties, owner status and tenure) were stronger influences on these outcome variables, as well as on the types of social control that residents use. The study also found common patterns of social controls used by students and non-students. The study suggests that the effects of student transients' college embedded social ties on neighborhood social organization is an avenue for future research.