One of the standard tenets of New Urbanism is that suburbanites have lost their sense of community and social capital, and that higher-density housing can restore these things. These ideas received a boost when Robert Putnam’s 1996 book, Bowling Alone, argued that America was experiencing a severe decline in social capital, and blamed much of this decline on the suburbs.
Now, Rich Carson, who calls himself the Contrarian Planner, points out in a new article that Putnam’s thesis is simply wrong. Instead, Carson observes, recent research from UC Berkeley has found that people living in denser areas have fewer close friends and fewer soclal interactions than people in low-density areas. In fact, as density increases by 10 percent, social interactions decline by 10 percent.