February 19, 2015

Regina Pritchett

Regina PritchettMajor and Classification

Public Policy, Management and Planning

Faculty Mentor

  • Tridib Banerjee, Ph.D.

Department

  • Policy, Planning and Development

McNair Project

Highly Publicized: Does Public Space Play a Role in the Generation of Social Capital?

In the face of widespread declines in the amount of space available for public use due to privatization, we must ask, “What happens to public life as the public realm wanes?” Theorists and observationalists alike have written at length on the variance and degree to which people civically engage in different types of communities. A few prominent studies have sought to explain declining participation trends in relation to changes made on the American Landscape. However, research that identifies what particular elements of the built environment are contributing to this trend is lacking. Considering that public spaces have been the forum for discourse among varied community member and the very space in which (access to) freedom of speech and democracy has been exercised, for the purpose of this study, I examined to what degree there existed a relationship between public space and social capital. Using seven Los Angeles neighborhoods, defined by neighborhood council boundaries within Council District 14, I statistically analyzed the relationship between indicators of civic engagement and social capital and the amount and type of public spaces. I found that while the amount of acreage available of public space was not correlated to higher levels of civic engagement, the number of public spaces was highly correlated with social capital.