March 2018

IZA DP No. 11416: Freedom from the Tyranny of Neighbourhood: Rethinking Socio-Spatial Context Effects

Ana Petrović, David Manley, Maarten van Ham

Theory behind neighbourhood effects suggests that different geographies and scales affect individual outcomes. We argue that neighbourhood effects research needs to break away from the tyranny of neighbourhood and consider alternative ways to measure the wider socio-spatial context of people, placing individuals at the centre of the approach. We review theoretical and empirical approaches to place and space from a multitude of disciplines and the geographical scopes of neighbourhood effects mechanisms. Ultimately, we suggest ways in which micro-geographic data can be used to operationalise socio-spatial context for neighbourhood effects, where data pragmatism should be supplanted by a theory-driven data exploration.