Death around the corner: explaining the linkages between community social organization and preventable mortality

by Feinberg, Seth L

Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation explores the reciprocal relationship between community organization and neighborhood mortality rates. Community organization captures a variety of social interactions that bring individuals together, providing an opportunity for collective responses to neighborhood concerns. Social organization is recognized as a determinant of crime and negative outcomes, yet there is scant evidence about what factors shape the degree to which one community is more or less organized than another. Nor have researchers explored thoroughly the effects of community organization on various types of mortality. I evaluate models that consider first how mortality influences levels of community organization, and then how this social organization affects subsequent levels of mortality. I posit that high levels of mortality motivate residents to participate in community organization. Drawing from social disorganization theory, I suggest that there is an underlying cultural consensus that certain types of death threaten community viability. The dissemination of information regarding deaths facilitates a collective recognition that others in the neighborhood share similar values. Over time, this collective recognition should strengthen network ties and the level of community organization, which should reduce mortality. Using data for Chicago neighborhoods, I find that the rate at which children die from preventable causes results in an increased likelihood that residents will join neighborhood watch organizations, and participate in direct citizen action. The effect of youth mortality is strongest when neighborhoods are characterized by dense network exchanges among residents. The impact of preventable youth mortality is distinct from health-related mortality of children, as well as preventable death rates for neighborhood adult populations. I also find that social organization has a strong protective effect in reducing youth death rates. The impact of collective efficacy holds for both preventable and health-related youth mortality. It follows that when neighborhoods experience high rates of preventable youth mortality, individual community participation helps build momentum towards more sustainable forms of community organization. These, in turn, reduce later rates of death for neighborhood youth. Local governments may contribute to protecting the lives of youth by mobilizing residents at those critical points when individuals are most likely to engage in community organization.
Bibliographical Information:


School:The Ohio State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:community social organization mortality neighborhoods


Date of Publication:01/01/2003

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