Identifying the urban: resident perceptions of community character and local institutions in eight metropolitan areas

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Billingham, Chase M.
Kimelberg, Shelley McDonough
Billingham, C. M. and Kimelberg, S. M. (2018), Identifying the Urban: Resident Perceptions of Community Character and Local Institutions in Eight Metropolitan Areas. City & Community, 17: 858-882
What does the term urban signify as a descriptor of contemporary communities in the United States? We investigate this question using data from the Soul of the Community survey, examining how people within eight metropolitan areas characterize their communities. A substantial disjunction exists between where within their regions respondents live and how they describe those areas. Many central-city residents label their communities suburban or rural, while many outlying residents label their communities urban. We contend that people's experiences with important local institutionsspecifically, local schools and the local public safety apparatusshape their understanding of their communities. Logistic regression models support this contention. Controlling for where within their regions respondents live, they are more likely to label their communities urban if they perceive local schools to be low in quality and their neighborhoods to be unsafe. Notably, these effects are not consistent across racial and ethnic groups.
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