Norms, sense of community and neighbourhood collectivism in a high-rise setting

Yung YAU*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsConference Paper (other)Researchpeer-review


Residents' willingness to intervene is a crucial determinant of the liveability of their neighbourhoods. In many Asian cities such as Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei, the configurations and ownership arrangements of most high-rise private housing necessitate collectivism among residents in many neighbourhood affairs. Mancur Olson's seminal free-rider theorem suggests unless being profitable for every single participant, collective action will neither be initiated nor sustained. In real life, however, many residents in high-rise neighbourhoods do actively engage in collective actions, which calls for an explanation for this observed deviation from the theoretical prediction. With an aim to understand why some residents are willing to participate and others are not, this study analyses the findings from a structured survey on private housing residents in Hong Kong. While the collective interest model serves as a theoretical starting point for this study of resident participation in neighbourhood affairs, particular foci are put on the importance of norms and sense of community on neighbourhood collectivism. Given the recurrent nature of the realization of public goods for a neighbourhood (e.g. environmental cleanliness and public safety), residents are thought to participate in repetitive 'games of collective action'. As suggested by some game theorists, social norms play an important role in shaping collective behaviour of individuals, particularly in repeated games. The analysis results indicate that apart from the oft-cited selective benefits and costs, social norms and sense of community are important determinants of neighbourhood collectivism in high-rise housing in Hong Kong. The research findings bear far-reaching policy and practical implications about the housing and neighbourhood governance in many Asian cities.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012
Externally publishedYes
Event6th Australasian Housing Researchers' Conference, AHRC 2012 - Adelaide, SA, Australia
Duration: 8 Feb 201210 Feb 2012


Conference6th Australasian Housing Researchers' Conference, AHRC 2012
CityAdelaide, SA


  • Collective action
  • Collective interest model
  • Neighbourhood governance
  • Sense of community
  • Social norms


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