Neighborhoods of affinity: social forces and travel in gay and lesbian neighborhoods

Jun 3, 2013 | Uncategorized

Smart, Michael, and Klein, Nicholas J. 2013. “Neighborhoods of affinity: social forces and travel in gay and lesbian neighborhoods.” Journal of the American Planning Association. 79(22): 110-124.


Problem, research strategy, and findings: Planners have traditionally focused on how the physical characteristics of neighborhoods influence people’s activity and travel-patterns, overlooking an equally important factor: the social nature of neighborhoods. We focus on one kind of neighborhood characterized by strong social ties: gay and lesbian-neighborhoods of affinity. Gay men — living in a neighborhood of affinity — those with a high percentage of coupled gays and lesbians take shorter work and non-work trips. The mix of local activity sites and social connections results in some gay men conducting a substantial share of their lives within these neighborhoods and nearby. These results are independent of the design or density of the neighborhood. We do not, however, find similar results for lesbians, perhaps because they have less residential mobility.

Takeaway for practice: Gay and lesbian neighborhoods of affinity represent the kinds of supportive communities where local travel is possible for many activities, behavior that planners seek with so many public policies. Planners must explore how the social and physical environments of neighborhoods interact with one another when they focus on the impacts of physical design and infrastructure on community outcomes.