Culture Builds Community

Document Type

Working Paper




This paper takes on the question—to what extent to are the relationships between diversity, social capital, and revitalization that SIAP has documented in Philadelphia present in other cities? This paper uses available data to give a first approximation of the relationship between these variables in other U.S. cities.

For this first multi-city investigation, SIAP chose four cities—Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, and San Francisco—that share similarities but exhibit contrasts as well. They all have sizable ethnic minorities, although their ethnic composition varies greatly. They represent the four basic regions of the United States defined by the Census Bureau. Two represent established cities that have had to accommodate the restructuring of the world and national economies over the past several decades, while two represent the “Sunbelt.” Finally, two of the cities have a classic nineteenth-century core with concentric circles of later settlement, while the other two represent the urban form of the automobile age with multiple “centers” and a more dispersed pattern of development.

As a “first-cut” on a multi-city study, the results of the analysis are striking. Each of the three major patterns found in Philadelphia are also present in the other cities. Each city had a substantial set of economically and ethnically diverse neighborhoods. In each city these neighborhoods were home to a large number of cultural organizations. Finally, in each city diverse neighborhoods with many cultural organizations were those most likely to experience revitalization during the 1980s. This paper therefore lays an important foundation in demonstrating that SIAP findings from Philadelphia are not idiosyncratic. In at least this respect, all the world really is like Philadelphia.


SIAP's Culture Builds Community inquiry was undertaken from 1996 to 2001 with support by the William Penn Foundation.



Date Posted: 18 May 2017