A friend was working through a bunch of data and trying to understand if residential living density had anything to do with a sense of belonging or general well-being. It was hard to uncover these parameters because we had to control for many other socio-economic factors at play. In Singapore, the good thing is most of these people owned their own housing, so rent-vs-own is already controlled for. Then there’s income, the size of household, and difference between the amenities in old (less dense) vs new (denser) estates. Too many confounding factors.
Another friend whom I posed this question to said that often, there are just plainly things we can observe and appreciate without having to mine through data. Sometimes, the desire to mine through data to ‘prove’ something is actually just getting a false sense of security. After all, there’s lots of scientific studies which are not replicable.
When it comes to fluffy factors like sense of well-being or belonging, maybe falling back on anecdotes, and our gut instincts, helps a lot. Because these things are just not quantifiable and when you ask a large number of people subjective things, the categorical result tabulation does not create that much objectivity within it.
Rather, the best way to understanding the phenomenon, might be to simply open your eyes and ears to observe, to speak to people, to actually conduct it from the perspective of the people themselves. To use ethnography.