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Neighbourhood social ties: how much do residential, physical and virtual mobility matter?


  • The research benefited from comments and support from a number of colleagues who I would like to thank. My special thanks go to Carol Propper and Simon Burgess for encouraging the research and providing valuable comments on early versions of the work, and to Amanda Sacker, Nick Buck, Chris Pickvance and anonymous reviewers for their suggestions and constructive criticism on later versions (see Knies 2007; Knies 2009a; Knies 2009b). This project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council [grant number RES−586−47−0002]. A substantial share of the work was undertaken with the support from doctoral student scholarships awarded by DIW Berlin and the Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO University of Bristol).

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Following up on the prediction by classical sociological theorists that neighbours will become irrelevant as societies become more mobile, this research examines the strength of people's social ties with neighbours and the associations thereof with residential, physical and virtual mobility using longitudinal data for Germany. Unlike previous studies, the research considers the three forms of mobility simultaneously and contrasts its effects on social ties with neighbours to those with family. The results show that residential and physical mobility are negatively associated with social ties to neighbours and positively with ties to family. Virtual mobility does not weaken social ties with neighbours but ties with family. The positive association between mobility and social ties with family may not be strong enough to ascertain that people maintain as close social ties to others in the future as it does not outweigh the negative association with visiting neighbours.

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