What sociodemographic factors shape residential preferences and how residential preferences are consonant with actual neighborhood characteristics?
December 13, 2019
Understanding relationships between built environment and health-related behaviors is critical for policymakers to design effective public health interventions. Research suggests that the causal link between built environment and health-related behaviors may be biased by residential preferences. The problem that residential preferences pose when examining relationships between built environment and health-related behaviors/outcomes is: personal preferences have simultaneous impacts on both the choice of neighborhood and health-related behaviors/outcomes of interest. Therefore, understanding what sociodemographic factors shape individuals’ residential preferences and if residential preferences concord with their actual neighborhood characteristics, is important because it will shed light on how residential preferences play a role in the associations between built environment and health-related behaviors.
New research, led by Jingjing Li, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow at the Urban Health Collaborative, at the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel, identified determinants of residential preferences related to built and social environment, and investigated the concordance between current neighborhood characteristics and residential preferences and examine if the concordance varies by income and race/ethnicity.
Study findings suggest that stronger preferences were associated with being older, female, non-White/non-Hispanic, and lower education. There was significant positive concordance between current neighborhood characteristics and residential preferences, after controlling for sociodemographic characteristics. Further, the concordance between neighborhood characteristics and residential preferences was stronger for individuals with higher household income compared to those with lower household income and for White participants compared to non-White racial/ethnic groups.
This work has important implications. First, the results provide further evidence on racial and economic disparities in residential decision-making and highlight the need for neighborhood health effect research to carefully consider the role of residential preferences relative to socio-demographic characteristics. Second, the results suggest that the problems that residential selection creates for causal inference is not uniform across sociodemographic groups and residential self-selection issues are most problematic when drawing inference from datasets with a significant proportion of advantaged persons (higher income, White).
This article was published in the Journal of Urban Health.