Malcolm Gladwell on Home Ownership and Community


photography by kris krüg

A propos of our post on Is Home Ownership a Good Thing? Part II, the introduction of Malcolm Gladwell's new book Outliers describes a study of Roseto, a small town in Pennsylvania, where for some unknown reason people just didn't die of the usual causes in America at the time, primarily heart attacks- they essentially kept going until they died of old age. The two doctors doing the study finally figured it out:

As Bruhn and Wolf walked around the town, they figured out why. They looked at how the Rosetans visited one another, stopping to chat in Italian on the street, say, or cooking for one another in their backyards. They learned about the extended family clans that underlay the town's social structure. They saw how many homes had three generations living under one roof, and how much respect grandparents commanded. They went to mass and saw the unifying and calming effect of the church. They counted twenty-two separate civic organizations in a town of just under two thousand people. They picked up on the particular egalitarian ethos of the community, which discouraged the wealthy from flaunting their success and helped the unsuccessful obscure their failures.

In transplanting the paesani culture of southern Italy to the hills of eastern Pennsylvania, the Rosetans had created a powerful, protective social structure capable of insulating them from the pressures of the modern world.

In this case, staying put and laying down roots made a real difference.

More on this story in TreeHugger:
Is Home Ownership a Good Thing? Part II
Is Home Ownership a Good Thing?
Paul Krugman on Home Ownership
5 Alternatives to the Buy vs Rent Question

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