Like a Good Neighbor, Sort of

  • Published: Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A landmark study on “good neighbors” by State Farm (2015) found that a sense of community among neighbors is a constant desire across generations. But, the State Farm survey also showed that Millennials may not know exactly how to connect; while Baby Boomers are generally most satisfied with relationships.

"Sometimes I hear people say they do not think their neighbors want to be bothered, but the State Farm survey does suggest otherwise," said David Burton, community development specialist with University of Missouri Extension. "People do seem to have expectations about neighbors and neighboring but lack the spark or time to get up out of the chair and iniatiate the interaction."

There were several discoveries in the survey worth noting.

1) Millennials aren't connecting, but they want to: 40 percent of Millennials wish they were more connected with neighbors, but are least likely to have had a face-to-face interaction in the last month.

2) The neighborhood gathering is organized by a dedicated few: 58 percent of neighbors says it's important for neighbors to socialize, but only 16 percent of men and 11 percent of women have ever organized a social event.

3) Welcoming is important, but not happening: The majority (75 percent) of neighbors say it is important to welcome new neighbors, but only 41 percent say they were welcomed when they moved in.

4) Everyday helpfulness is valued, but not requested: Though indicated as a good neighbor trait, only 37 percent of respondents reported that they were more likely to ask a neighbor for help with a small project than a friend who does not live in their neighborhood.

According to Burton, there used to be a necessity to reach out and build bonds with the people who live nearby, even if they were different.

But now, Americans social capital (their time and attention) is so stretched that neighbor relationships often get overlooked for more convenient options, like people we meet over common interests.

"We don't have time for both so the neighbor relationships get lost," said Burton. "But the connections over common interests are not as strong or as helpful because they lack proximity."

It is not that we are making an active decision not to talk with neighbors. Rather, we just prefer to spend our time texting friends, chatting online, or watching television.

"This means Americans are growing farther apart and talking less with people who have different opinions. This change also undercuts what used to be one of the greatest assets in American: social community and involvement," said Burton.

According to Burton, the value of neighbors cannot be overstated. For starters, research by a national real estate firm discovered 12 financial reasons to be a good neighbor: peaceful living, safety first, backup supplies, joint ventures, family camaraderie, family support, vacation help, social circle, good advisors, business networking, errand help, and a source of help.

Takes steps to reverse the trend in your own life and community. One step would be to enroll in Burton's class, “Becoming an Engaged Neighbor,” which is offered by University of Missouri Extension online at http://extension.missouri.edu. Enroll in the online class and then proceed at your own pace.

Writer: David Burton

Media Contact

David Burton
417/881-8909

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