Despite marked shifts in the functions and subjective meaning of local neighborhoods for people in modern, urban societies, neighborhoods remain the places in which most people feel at home. Moreover, high levels of neighborhood satisfaction are characteristic of metropolitan American life. Satisfaction may evidence something less than total fulfillment but is, nonetheless, one token of the importance of the neighborhood experience.
When we trace the factors associated with neighborhood satisfaction, one strong pattern emerges: the higher the social-class position, the greater the degree of neighborhood satisfaction. This is not just a matter of economic status; education, race/ethnicity, and many linked positional and ecological variables are also implicated. Nor is this surprising, since higher social positions are tied to objectively better housing, neighborhoods, and communities. The analysis of these interrelationships reveals that higher social positions lead to improved residential quality and that neighborhood quality is the major factor accounting for neighborhood satisfaction.
The processes by which differences in social position lead to very marked variations in neighborhood quality (more marked, for example, than differences in housing cost alone could explain) are manifold. They involve metropolitan knowledge, daily-life constraints on freedom, constraints built into the "packaged" housing in the housing market itself, as well as income and access differences. As a result, for most people, the experience of residential choice is one of satis-