A study of the long-term effects of 9/11 on political behavior is suggestive of the methodological transition that is under way: using only nonsurvey data sources—specifically, lists of all registered voters in the state of New York and digital obituaries to match 9/11 victims—Hersch (2013) determined that “family members and residential neighbors of victims have become, and have stayed, significantly more active in politics in the last 12 years, and they have become more Republican.” The author noted that the methods of analysis used in this research would not have been possible without the recent improvements in computational capacity and the quality of public records.
The Kasinitz et al. (2008) study of immigrants in New York City and the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (Sampson and Graif, 2002, 2009) used detailed, multimode datasets, for which surveys were only one component, to capture the complexities of social capital, much of which takes place most intensively as community-level social processes. These studies were designed to generate insights about the links among neighborhood characteristics, social organizations, community-level phenomena, social functioning, and quality of life. They utilize a wide range of methodologies, ranging from experimental designs, capable of taking into account spatial and temporal dynamics, to systematic observational approaches that benchmark data on neighborhood social processes. They also required the empirical study of communities for the better parts of a decade. Only then could a comprehensive picture emerge of the processes whereby “neighborhoods influence a remarkably wide variety of social phenomena, including crime, health, civic engagement, home foreclosures, teen births, altruism, leadership networks, and immigration” (Sampson, 2012a, Foreword). Sampson (2013) described the “science of how cities and neighborhoods work”:
…using Chicago as an urban laboratory…My research team and I followed more than 6000 families wherever they moved, as well as studying the city’s neighbourhoods themselves. We surveyed more than 10,000 residents, watched video footage we took of thousands of city streets, assessed the social networks of community leaders and gathered data on collective civic events such as fundraising for schools and blood donation.…[lost letter and other experimental data were] combined with records on crime, violence, health, community organisations and population characteristics over 40 years.…Our research is part of a larger effort to develop tools to measure and evaluate the social-ecological infrastructure of cities, known as ‘ecometrics.’
The progress made with these in-depth studies helps in the development of questions for broader population surveys (as it has for the Neighborhood Capital Module of the American Housing Survey, discussed in Chapter 4). As we note throughout, however, without costly sample