Adapting social surveys to depopulating neighborhoods

Survey research is an essential method for understanding if and how landscape interventions provide socio-ecological benefits in residential areas. However, depopulating areas present challenges to methodological conventions for household surveys. We describe the innovative modified approach we used to survey a Detroit neighborhood with high residential vacancy and ongoing depopulation. We conducted household surveys (n = 164) to assess baseline health information, perceptions of neighborhood characteristics, and design preferences related to alternative green infrastructure interventions. Specifically, we describe the iterative decision-making process we used to determine our area frame, identify and contact households, and monitor survey response – a process that led us to a census-based approach. This entailed ongoing assessment of household vacancy in our study neighborhood, using secondary data from multiple sources, tracking household visits during survey administration, and soliciting ongoing input from survey administrators. The iterative process we developed may be informative to others conducting household surveys in depopulating neighborhoods.