Encyclopedic Entry

This is a dog-friendly neighborhood.

Photograph by Jodi Cobb, National Geographic

A neighborhood is an area where people live and interact with one another. Neighborhoods tend to have their own identity, or "feel" based on the people who live there and the places nearby. Residents may have similar types of families, incomes, and education level. Neighborhoods can include restaurants, bookstores, and parks.

Neighborhoods often have fuzzy geographical boundaries, so sometimes its difficult to tell where one starts and another ends. Major streets often act as logical boundaries, but people usually define a neighborhood by its characteristics.

Neighborhoods are usually mentioned in terms of big cities, but suburban or rural areas also have neighborhoods. Suburban neighborhoods tend to have larger homes and more families than urban neighborhoods. Neighborhood residents generally have similar incomes, as well as similar social characteristics such as education level, housing preference, and sense of public order.

Sometimes, the dominant ethnicity in a neighborhood defines its character. People, especially recent immigrants to a new country, will often cluster near others with the same cultural heritage. In the United States, you can find them in neighborhoods such as Little Italy and Chinatown, names shared by neighborhoods in several cities. Harlem is a predominantly African American neighborhood in New York City, New York. In Los Angeles, California, Chinatown is joined by Little Saigon, which includes immigrants from Vietnam. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Little Mogadishu neighborhood is defined by immigrants from Somalia.

When people band together in this way, it strengthens their sense of community and preserves cultural traditions. Residents benefit from nearby relatives and a common language, as well as stores and services geared to their needs. They are close to institutions important to them, such as churches and clubs. Unlike neighborhoods, ghettos and barrios have historically been areas where ethnic groups were forced to live.

In China, a nation of more than 1 billion people, a neighborhood is a government district. Neighborhood leaders, like city and state leaders, are responsible for the order and management of the area.

Vocabulary

Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry

barrio

Noun

urban neighborhood populated primarily by Spanish-speaking people.

boundary

Noun

line separating geographical areas.

Encyclopedic Entry: boundary

culture

Noun

learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

ethnicity

Noun

identity in a group sharing genetic characteristics, culture, language, religion, or history.

ghetto

Noun

low-income urban neighborhood populated by members of a minority group.

heritage

Noun

cultural or family background.

immigrant

Noun

person who moves to a new country or region.

rural

Adjective

having to do with country life, or areas with few residents.

suburb

Noun

geographic area, mostly residential, just outside the borders of an urban area.

tradition

Noun

beliefs, customs, and cultural characteristics handed down from one generation to the next.

urban

Adjective

having to do with city life.

Credits

Media Credits

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Writers

Kim Rutledge
Melissa McDaniel
Diane Boudreau
Tara Ramroop
Santani Teng
Erin Sprout
Hilary Costa
Hilary Hall
Jeff Hunt

Illustrators

Tim Gunther
Mary Crooks, National Geographic Society

Editors

Kara West
Jeannie Evers

Educator Reviewer

Nancy Wynne

Producer

Caryl-Sue, National Geographic Society

Sources

Dunn, Margery G. (Editor). (1989, 1993). "Exploring Your World: The Adventure of Geography." Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society.

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