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Social Capital

This website is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.

The Healthy Community Design Initiative, also known as the Built Environment and Health Initiative, is no longer a funded program and the information on this website is not being reviewed and updated on a regular basis.


neighbors talking

The fabric of a community and the community pool of human resources available to it is often called its “social capital.” This term refers to the individual and communal time and energy that is available for such things as community improvement, social networking, civic engagement, personal recreation, and other activities that create social bonds between individuals and groups.

The way that we design our communities and the commuting distances and times that result can affect the amount of time that is available for

  • Extracurricular activities for our children
  • Recreation/rejuvenation time for adults after work
  • Community involvement activities such as neighborhood improvement projects and neighborhood association events
  • Time for family members to spend together

Circumstances that prevent or limit the availability of social capital for a community and its members can have a negative effect on the health and well-being of the members of that community. These negative effects on health and well-being can in turn have negative effects on the community as a whole.

For more information about social capital and community design, refer to the following resources:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Landscape and Human Health Laboratory
The Landscape and Human Health Laboratory (LHHL) is a multidisciplinary research laboratory dedicated to studying the connection between greenery and human health.

Eicher C, Kawachi I. Social capital and community design. In: Dannenberg AL, Frumkin H, Jackson RL. Making healthy places: designing and building for health, well-being, and sustainability. Washington DC: Island Press, 2011.

Walljasper J. The great neighborhood book: A do-it-yourself guide to placemaking. Gabriola Island (BC): New Society Publishers, 2007.

Sullivan, WC, Kuo, FE, & DePooter, S (2004). The fruit of urban nature: Vital neighborhood spaces [PDF – 2.5 MB]. Environment & Behavior, 36(5), 678-700.

Additional information on social capital and related topics can be found in the Additional Resources section.

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  • Page last reviewed: October 15, 2009 (archived document)
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