What about cities?
Urban studies is a large field that includes many different disciplines and topics. My interest lies is understanding The Connected City: How Networks are Shaping the Modern Metropolis. I maintain a separate website for researchers interested in urban networks, but I am especially interested in urban networks at two different scales. At the micro-scale, I study how social networks between people in cities influences processes like the formation of neighborhoods. At the macro-scale, I study how economic and transportation networks between cities around the world influence processes like urban growth and economic development.
Research on cities at the micro-scale
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Using agent-based simulation models, I study the relationship between social cohesion (i.e. do people feel like they belong in their neighborhood) and spatial segregation (i.e. do different groups live in different neighborhoods). This research has found that when segregated neighborhoods are likely to be more cohesive, while integrated neighborhoods are likely to be more fragmented. This phenomenon can be traced to the fact that people tend to form relationships with others who are similar (homophily) and nearby (proximity).
Neal, Z. P. (2015). Making big communities small: Using network science to understand the ecological and behavioral requirements for community social capital. American Journal of Community Psychology, 55, 369 – 380. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10464-015-9720-4 [pre-print]
Neal, Z. P., & Neal, J. W. (2014). The in(compatibility) of diversity and sense of community. American Journal of Community Psychology, 53, 1 – 12. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10464-013-9608-0 [pre-print]
Using surveys and meta-analysis, I study what leads to neighborhood satisfaction. People are more satisfied in neighborhoods that (they think) have good schools, whether they have children or not, because schools serve as anchors for the community. But, looking at over 400,000 people in cities around the world, the neighborhood itself doesn't really impact whether a person is satisfied with their neighborhood. Instead, neighborhood satisfaction is psychological...it's all in your head. For example, the schools don't actually have to be good, as long as you think they are.
Neal, Z. P., & Neal, J. W. (2012). The public school as a public good: direct and indirect pathways to community satisfaction. Journal of Urban Affairs, 34, 469 – 485. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9906.2011.00595.x [pre-print]
The World City Network (WCN) is the economic network that connects key financial centers around the world and structures the global economy, fueling globalization. I am particularly interested in how this network changes over time. Looking backward, I have found that cities' network connectivity matters more than their population. Looking forward, I have been exploring ways to forecast how the network will evolve in the future.
Neal, Z. P., Derudder, B., & Taylor, P. J. (2020). Forecasting the world city network. Habitat International, 106, 102146. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.habitatint.2020.102146 [pre-print]
Neal, Z. P. (2011). From central places to network bases: a transition in the US urban hierarchy, 1900 – 2000. City and Community, 10, 49 – 74. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6040.2010.01340.x [pre-print]
Economic and transportation networks between cities are difficult to measure because government sources like the Census do not typically include this information, so I study ways that they can be measured. My focus has been on measuring economic linkages using information about firm co-locations, and measuring transportation linkages using information about airline passengers.
Neal, Z. P. (2017). Well connected compared to what? Rethinking frames of reference in world city network research. Environment and Planning A, 49, 2859-2877. https://doi.org/10.1177/0308518X16631339 [pre-print]
Neal, Z. P. (2010). Refining the air traffic approach to city networks. Urban Studies, 47, 2195 – 2215. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042098009357352 [pre-print]