The Sea Islands region represents a unique social, economic, and environmental landscape through which much can be learned to promote the well-being of the region as well as contribute to improved understanding of basic social processes.
The region is known for its lush environmental landscapes that have attracted individuals and helped to grow local communities and economies since the time of its discovery. Thus, the link between community, economic, and environmental spheres are uniquely inter-related.
Moreover, the way in which communities are designed in the region is also unique. Communities in the Sea Islands are often compartmentalized into discrete areas separated by geographic (e.g. rivers) and/or artificial markers (e.g. gates). This design of the region’s communities creates physical barriers that likely extend into psychological barriers making them easily recognizable sources of social identification.
Social scientists have long recognized that the physical condition of neighborhoods can have significant consequences for the well-being of residents. Physical neighborhood disorganization (e.g. trash) has been linked to mental and physical illness, social isolation, crime, and delinquency. However, physical neighborhood characteristics may not fully capture the impact that living in a particular neighborhood has on residents.
Indeed, what some neighborhoods lack (e.g. amenities) may become a source of mistreatment by others in society. In our recent community survey research we examined the role of perceived neighborhood stigma (e.g. possession of a socially devalued characteristic) in community residents’ self-esteem, sense of community, and their interest in environmental protection.
Our research shows that individuals who feel more stigmatized because of the neighborhood that they live in also experience lower self-esteem, have a lower sense of community, and are less interested in protecting the local environment. These findings support the important role that our living spaces play in determining how we feel about ourselves.