If you're shopping for a home, finding the "right" neighborhood for you and your family is key. You want a community where you'll feel comfortable and safe; where you won't mind walking alone at night or taking public transit; and where it seems that people care about their homes and local businesses.
In the 2014 General Social Survey on Victimization, Statistics Canada asked if there were problems in neighborhoods with "disorders" such as garbage or litter lying around; people using or selling drugs; noisy neighbors; or people being attacked because of skin color, ethnicity or religion. While the majority said there were no problems, 23 per cent of respondents reported some kind of disorder in the neighborhood. This was down slightly from the last time this question was asked in 2004.
The No. 1 disorder was people using or dealing drugs, which was named as a big or moderate problem by 10 per cent of Canadians.
Next on the list was vandalism/graffiti or other damage to property and vehicles, reported as a big or moderate problem by seven per cent of respondents. Other disorders were garbage or litter lying around; noisy neighbors or loud parties; people hanging around on the streets; and people being drunk or rowdy in public places. People being attacked because of skin colour, ethnicity or religion was citied as a big or moderate problem by two per cent of Canadians.
The study by Adam Cotter says, "Canadians who perceive disorder in their neighborhoods report lower average life satisfaction than those who do not. Conversely, cohesive neighborhoods can foster a sense of belonging, community, perceptions of safety, and create connections and increased social capital."
Cotter points to the "broken windows" theory, "which suggests that visible and apparent signs of disorder in a neighborhood can influence these residents to withdraw from community or neighborhood interaction, while also signalling to others that these types of behaviors or activities are more acceptable or less likely to be punished in these areas."
He notes that more recent research has proposed that "the relationship between disorder, fear and crime is not as explicit or directional as originally stated," but that "though the concepts of disorder and crime may not be distinct, asking residents about neighborhood disorder can provide important context to how Canadians perceive their neighborhoods."
The study found that people living in neighborhoods with a higher proportion of homeowners and less resident turnover were less likely to perceive disorder than neighborhoods with a relatively high proportion of low-income and lone-parent families.
People living in the city are more likely to perceive disorder than those outside the population core in the suburbs or rural areas. Those living in high-income areas are less likely to perceive disorder than those in low-income neighborhoods.
The study appears to buck the stereotype of the old man on his porch, shouting at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn.
"Generally, perceptions of neighborhood disorder decrease with age, as Canadians between the ages of 25 and 34 were most likely to perceive disorder," says Cotter.
He also looked at perceptions of physical disorder (vandalism, graffiti, garbage, litter) versus "social disorder", which includes people using or dealing drugs, noisy neighbors and loud parties and people being drunk in public places. Women were slightly more likely than men to perceive social disorder -- specifically, people using or dealing drugs -- as a problem.
Cotter's study determined that "lower likelihoods of perceiving neighborhood disorder are associated with being male, being over the age of 55, being in the highest household income quartile among Canadians and being a non-Aboriginal person."
He says, "Living in a neighborhood with a higher proportion of persons under the age of 65 and a higher proportion of low-income households increased the probability of perceiving neighborhood disorder more than any other factor…while living in an area with a high proportion of homeowners decreased the likelihood of perceiving disorder."
Compared to the national average, residents of Alberta and Quebec were more likely to perceive neighborhood disorder, while those in Ontario and New Brunswick were less likely.
"Residents of Montreal and Vancouver were more likely to perceive one or more problems in their neighborhood," says the report. Smaller census metropolitan areas such as Saint John, Victoria, St. Catharines - Niagara, Windsor (Ont.), Trois-Rivieres, Kelowna, Kingston and Moncton were less likely than average to perceive disorder.