Community >> Social Cohesion

Social Cohesion: Summary & Data Highlights

Ratings of neighborhood social cohesion were lower among foreign-born King County adults than among those who were born in the U.S.

Social cohesion is generally understood as mutual trust among neighbors combined with a willingness to intervene on behalf of the common good.  Neighborhoods with high levels of social cohesion tend to have lower rates of violence. 

In 2011, King County adults were asked 5 questions about trust in their neighborhood and 5 questions about the likelihood that their neighbors could be counted on to intervene in problem situations.  The mean social cohesion score for adults in King County was 36.2, with a possible range from 10 (low) to 50 (high).

Country of birth, primary language, age, race, gender, and health matter.

  • Adults who were born outside the U.S. and those for whom English was not their first language had lower neighborhood social cohesion scores than those who were U.S. born and primarily spoke English when they were growing up.
  • People aged 45 and older reported higher levels of social cohesion in their neighborhoods than did those who were younger.
  • Whites reported higher levels of social cohesion than Blacks or Asians.
  • Women reported a higher degree of social cohesion than men.
  • Adults in excellent, very good, or good health reported higher levels of neighborhood social cohesion than those in fair or poor health.

Place matters.

  • East Region adults reported higher levels of neighborhood social cohesion than adults in Seattle, South Region, and King County overall.

Income, education, and employment matter.

  • Higher income was associated with higher levels of social cohesion: those with annual income at or above $65,000 reported higher levels of social cohesion in their neighborhoods than those with household incomes of $50,000 or less.
  • College graduates were more likely than adults with less education to report high levels of social cohesion.
  • Adults who were retired reported higher levels of social cohesion than those who were employed, unemployed, out of the labor force (homemakers and students), or unable to work.

Household type matters.

  • Adults in households with children reported higher levels of neighborhood social cohesion than did those without children.
  • Respondents in married or unmarried couple relationships were more likely than those without partners to have high social cohesion scores. 

No definitive trends were detected.

  • Due to a change in sampling methods, trend results were mixed (data not shown).
  • See Notes & Sources for more detail.

"Social cohesion is the capacity of a society to ensure the well-being of all its members, minimizing disparities and avoiding marginalization."
Report of High-Level Task Force on Social Cohesion (2008)

"Yeah, I do [know my neighbors]. I know them all. And it’s kind of nice... They do definitely keep an eye out. We kind of take care of each other. We’ve been here for a long time now…"
Mother of 3; 2-parent family living in trailer park in North King County