The Power of Place: Social Network Characteristics, Perceived Neighborhood Features, and Psychological Distress Among African Americans in the Historic Hill District in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Published in: American Journal of Community Psychology, v. 58, no. 1-2, Sep. 2016, p. 60-68

Posted on RAND.org on November 01, 2016

by Karen Rocío Flórez, Bonnie Ghosh-Dastidar, Robin L. Beckman, Kayla de la Haye, O. Kenrik Duru, Ana F. Abraído-Lanza, Tamara Dubowitz

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African American neighborhoods have been historically targeted for urban renewal projects, which impact social composition and resident's health. The Hill District in Pittsburgh, PA is such a neighborhood. This research sought to investigate the extent to which social networks and perceived neighborhood social cohesion and safety were associated with psychological distress among residents in an African American neighborhood undergoing urban renewal, before the implementation of major neighborhood changes. Findings revealed a modest, significant inverse association between social network size and psychological distress (β = −0.006, p < .01), even after controlling for age, employment, education, and income. Perceived neighborhood safety predicted decreased psychological distress (β = −1.438, p < .01), but not social cohesion, which is consistent with past research. Findings suggest that social networks protect against psychological distress, but neighborhood perceptions are also paramount.

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