"City air makes free": A multi-level, cross-national analysis of self-efficacy

Jeffrey S. Debies-Carl, Christopher M. Huggins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The effects of cities on the subjective states of individuals have been the subject of continuous inquiry. Recent research has demonstrated potential links between immediate environments and individual outcomes such as perceived powerlessness. However, the results of such studies are inconsistent and fail to account for the greater societal environment in which observations occur. Using a more comparative, cross-national sample and multi-level modeling, we retest the expectation that the immediate physical and social environment influences feelings of powerlessness, and extend the test to consider urbanism operating at societal levels beyond the local. Controlling for demographic composition, we find that urban factors operating at both societal and local levels are important predictors of selfefficacy and powerlessness. While one factor was found to correspond with decreased selfefficacy, two aspects of urban environments-one local and one societal-are found to be consistent with Simmel's assertion that urban settings increase individual feelings of efficacy and freedom. The implications of these findings for urban theory are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-364
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Psychology Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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