After Sandy, Trusting Neighborhoods Bounced Back Faster, Survey Finds

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It's not all about money. To dig out from the damage left behind by Sandy, some more ephemeral assets of a neighborhood can make a difference.

The Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research surveyed more than 2,000 people, mostly those affected by Sandy, to find out what makes a community bounce back better. The findings offer a bit of contemporary data in support of the idea that resilient communities require more than sea walls and sand dunes, but also friends and morals.

The survey, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, looked at which neighborhoods were recovering slowly and which were back on their feet faster, taking into account the amount of damage. In slowly recovering neighborhoods, fewer people said that, generally speaking, most people can be trusted (31 percent) compared to the survey average (44 percent). "Neighborhoods lacking in social cohesion and trust more generally are having a difficult time recovering from Sandy," the authors wrote. 

A long reading list of sociology studies have argued that social cohesion helps a community cope with disaster--having friends to call on in need of help, or neighbors who check on you in tough times can act as an advanced social safety net.

Also more prevalent in the slowly recovering neighborhoods were: hoarding (47 percent vs. 25 percent), looting and stealing (31 percent vs. 7 percent), and vandalism (21 percent vs. 5 percent).

For people who say their neighborhood was "extremely affected" by Sandy, they were just as likely to reach out to friends and family for support as to FEMA, both at 47 percent. Only 17 percent asked help of state government, less than the share that asked their church or religious group for assistance (21 percent). 

By and large, reports of kindness and aid were fare more common than the reverse, 81 percent of respondents say the storm brought out the best in people.