In this survey, we asked Americans if they know all, most, or some of their neighbors by name. The last time we asked this question, in 2008, a full 31% of Americans reported that they did not know any of their neighbors by name . In 2010 when we asked people if they knew the names of their neighbors, a substantially larger number reported that that they knew at least some: Only 18% of Americans do not know the name of at least some of their neighbors.
What explains this trend? As with our finding that there has been a short-term increase in trust, caution should be taken in interpreting these findings. Measures of trust, neighboring and civics often experience short-term gains and losses in response to economic, political, and social events. It might be that the persistence of the poor economic conditions of the American economy has prompted – or necessitated -- that people to turn to their neighbors for informal support. It would be premature to suggest that this current trend is part of a gradual increase in social capital in America.
As in 2008, we expected to find that many of those who reported no connections to their neighbors are disconnected because of their stage in the life cycle and not because they are socially isolated. For example, young adults who have yet to put down roots in a community are less likely to know their neighbors. When we control for demographic characteristics, we find much the same as we did in 2008– younger people, apartment dwellers, and those who are neither married nor cohabitating are typically at a stage in their lives when neighbors are less important than other types of relationships .
When we control for demographic characteristics, we find no indication that different types of technology use predict neighboring. Internet and non-internet users are equally as likely as others to know at least some of their neighbors (see Appendix C, Table C7, for the results of our regression analysis). This is a departure from our findings in 2008 when we found that SNS users were less likely to know the names of their neighbors.