Disparities in Urban Neighborhood Conditions: Evidence from GIS measures and field Observation in NYC

Neckerman K.N., et. al

Neckerman, K. M., Lovasi, G. S., Davies, S., Purciel, M., Quinn, J., Feder, E., … Rundle, A. (2009). Disparities in urban neighborhood conditions: Evidence from GIS measures and field observation in New York city. Journal of Public Health Policy, 30, S264–S285. doi:10.1057/jphp.2008.47

Disparities , Health , Physical Activity , Poverty , Walkability Index

Although many low-income urban areas are highly walkable by conventional measures such as population density or land use mix, chronic diseases related to lack of physical activity are more common among residents of these areas. Disparities in neighborhood conditions may make poor areas less attractive environments for walking, offsetting the advantages of density and land use mix. This study compared poor and nonpoor neighborhoods in New York City, using geographic information systems measures constructed from public data for US census tracts within New York City (N = 2,172) as well as field observation of a matched-pair sample of 76 block faces on commercial streets in poor and nonpoor neighborhoods. Poor census tracts had significantly fewer street trees, landmarked buildings, clean streets, and sidewalk cafes, and higher rates of felony complaints, narcotics arrests, and vehicular crashes. The field observation showed similar results. Improving aesthetic and safety conditions in poor neighborhoods may help reduce disparities in physical activity among urban residents.

Main finding
This study's findings show that there are strong differences in neighborhood conditions between poor and non-poor areas that were equally walkable. It demonstrates that eventhough equally "walkable", poor areas are less likely to induce walking compared to non-poor areas, which may have other amenities such as aesthetics and safety which might be factors that encourage walking. These factors can explain disparities in heath between advantaged and disadvantaged populations.

Description of method used in the article

Of practical use

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