Ethnographic Research: Gated Communities Don’t Lead to Security
Gated communities are becoming more and more popular in America. They are no longer ghettoes for the rich and wealthy. Behind fences and walls, more than eight million Americans live in their own parallel societies. Setha Low, professor of environmental psychology and anthropology, has conducted ten years of fieldwork in gated communities in New York, Texas and Mexico City and why there has been an increase in Americans moving to gated communities. The University of California at Irvine’s campus newspaper, New University reports about a recent lecture by Setha Low:
Her research revealed that gated communities don’t necessarily have less crime than the surrounding area. In addition, residents did not find the friendly community that they were looking for. She found that residents did feel safer, but they worried all the time about the guards and the workers, and the residents had their home security systems on all the time.
>> read the whole story in New University (Link updated with copy)
In an earlier text, Setha Low writes:
Most people who move to gated communities are not aware of what they lose in this quest for safety and privacy. Growing up with an implicit fortress mentality, many children may experience more, not less, fear of people outside the gates.
In an review of Setha Low's book Behind the Gates: Life, Security, and the Pursuit of Happiness in Fortress America, Alan Greenblatt provides more details:
Gated communities "preselect a ready-made community of socially and economically similar people," Low writes. But as her interviews reveal, in time that self-selection feeds upon itself and fear of outsiders grows. Low quotes a San Antonio woman identified as "Felicia" as saying "if you go downtown, which is much more mixed, where everybody goes, I feel much more threatened." Due to lack of exposure, Felicia's young daughter has grown afraid of poor people on the rare occasions she encounters any. Other residents are even more open about such issues. A teenager dressed in a tennis skirt for a Fourth of July party casually tells Low that the Mexicans downtown "are dangerous, packing knives and guns." Low blames gated communities for exacerbating these segregationist or even racist tendencies.