Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Political Science

Committee Chair

Kevin M Leyden


Public policy decisions made across levels of government have an effect on the way in which cities and city neighborhoods are built and maintained. Places vary in several ways including by the level of diversity or uniformity of the types of available amenities, transportation options, cleanliness, safety, affordability, and the availability of basic services. A growing body of literature, through empirical research, demonstrates that these variations affect several domains of people's lives. Personal health, the natural environment, and social capital have all been linked to characteristics of the built environment and attributes of the public realm. In line with this body of literature, the present dissertation examines how individual happiness, social connections, civic pride, and community satisfaction are associated with the way in which cities are designed and maintained. Further, overall voluntary political activity among residents is explored to determine how it may be affected by the types of places in which people live.;Using two unique data sets, this dissertation empirically demonstrates that place matters. People who agree that their cities allow easy access to cultural and leisure facilities, libraries, and provide convenient public transportation are happier. The same is true for those who believe that there city is a beautiful, that it is a good place to raise children, and who agree that it is affordable. These findings are significant even when accounting for other factors associated with happiness.;Social connections and connections to place are also significantly affected by the built environment and the conditions of the public realm. People feel more connected to each other and to their cities when they are provided with accessible amenities and when the public realm is safe, aesthetically agreeable, and affordable enough to allow them to engage society. These findings are consistent across 10 different cities in North America, Europe, and Asia.;Finally, political participation is found to be associated with characteristics of the built environment. Accounting for past research and controlling for factors such as socioeconomic status and political engagement, political participation is significantly related to the walkability of a neighborhood. People are more active in politics when living in places that are pedestrian-oriented and mixed-use, all things being equal. This dissertation project presents a direct relationship between the built environment and political participation, and an indirect relationship as mediated by mobilization.;The implications of this research are instructive to academics, policy makers, and urban community planners. Such implications, along with avenues for future research based upon these findings, are presented.