Subjective and Objective Neighborhood Characteristics and Adult Health

Published in: Social science and medicine, v. 66, no. 6, Mar. 2008, p. 1256-1270

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2007

by Margaret Weden, Richard M. Carpiano, Stephanie A. Robert

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This study examines both objective and subjective assessments of neighborhood conditions, exploring the overlap between different sources of information on neighborhoods and the relative strength of their association with adult self-rated health. Data on perceived neighborhood quality from Wave IV (2001/2002) of the nationally representative U.S. Americans Changing Lives study are merged with neighborhood-level census tract data to measure subjective and objective neighborhood constructs. Structural equation models indicate that subjective and objective constructs are both related to health. However, the subjective construct (perceived neighborhood quality) is most strongly associated with health and mediates associations between health and the objective constructs (neighborhood disadvantage and affluence). Additionally, individual characteristics play an important role in shaping the contribution of neighborhood conditions through selection and mediation. Our results demonstrate the independent associations between both objective and perceived neighborhood quality and health, and highlight the particularly strong association between perceived neighborhood quality and health.

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