Although some scholars remain sceptical about its relevance due to its contested and porous nature, evidence across the globe shows that social processes, such as immigration, lifestyle, crime, unemployment and housing quality are best studied and understood at the neighbourhood level.

This report reviews how the concept has been constructed and how it emerged as a research unit. It considers the issues of neighbourhood effects and change, approaches to the study of neighbourhoods, as well as the importance and challenges of neighbourhood research.

The review reveals that the concept is hotly contested and negotiated, hence it defies singular definition. The focus of scholarship, in general, is skewed, particularly towards neighbourhood effects and neighbourhood change. In the global south, especially in Africa and Asia, the focus is somewhat different; satisfaction and wellbeing, redevelopment, health and social capital are dominant.

Neighbourhood scholarship has also witnessed significant advances in methodological approaches. The challenge, however, has been application of mixed methods. Only a few such studies have attempted, suggesting room for improvement, and the need for future research to think creatively about how to effectively blend the quantitative and qualitative methods in gathering and analysing neighbourhood level data.

A major concern that the review identified is that less attention that has been given to many critical areas, such as neighbourhood education, health, livelihood, adaptation, security, and built environment. These areas are under-studied at the neighbourhood level, especially in developing countries. The review recommends more empirical examination of these issues.


The GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC) is an international consortium of nine research partners aiming to strengthen capacity to address urban, health and education challenges in neighbourhoods across fast-growing cities in Africa and Asia.

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SHLC is funded via UK Research and Innovation as part of the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

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