"Levels of volunteerism and civic engagement were found to be 'average to low,' despite statistics that also said residents have smaller commutes and shorter workweeks than the national average.
Without public space that encourages informal socializing, or bumping into people as might happen in a small town, people cannot network with each other, she said.
'Strip malls don't make the same kind of connecting that town centers do,' she said.
Informal interactions increase 'social capital,' a measure of interpersonal networks between people. When it's high, she said, communities are safer, schools are better, the economy is better, and people are healthier."