How 6,000 Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Relationships Make Seven U.S. Cities More Cohesive

Authors: Clio Andris*, Pennsylvania State University, Xi Liu, Pennsylvania State University
Topics: Geographic Information Science and Systems, Spatial Analysis & Modeling, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: intepersonal relationships, social networks, urban, GIS, mapping, mentorships
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: Download


How 6,000 Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Relationships Make Seven U.S. Cities More Cohesive Urban neighborhoods can exhibit a lack of inter-neighborhood connectivity, leaving the city with disparate social networks. Quantitative research on these layouts, and on segregation, measures the configuration of areal (Census) units—evidencing stark boundaries of socio-economic differences. Adding personal relationships to the GIS data tells a different story: that some ties cut across segregated boundaries, evidencing crucial relationships. Through a partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS), we model geolocated mentorships as personal day-to-day interaction across urban neighborhoods. We use a novel dataset of over 12,000 BBBS “Bigs” and “Littles”, in seven U.S. American cities (Philadelphia, Tampa, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Denver and Los Angeles). Using statistical tests and GIS, we find that “matches” live closer than simulated pairs. Despite being geographically close, matches create socio-economic bridges. Little neighborhoods have a higher percentage of African Americans and significantly fewer bachelor’s degrees, more unemployment, and lower median household income than Big neighborhoods. Neither matches nor simulated pairs align with the network of urban commuting patterns. We also find that Bigs hail from inner-city areas, suggesting civic engagement and ‘giving back’ of (often young) adults who choose to live in the city. Results suggest that social-capital-facilitating organizations create a spillover effect by facilitating bridges between neighborhoods and disconnected social networks, benefiting the larger city. This work can help inform research in geography, city science and sociology and advance the quantitative study of economic social systems within the urban environment.

Abstract Information

This abstract is already part of a session. View the session here.

To access contact information login