Technical Detail and Appendices for a Study of Neighborhood Archetypes for Population Health Research

by Margaret M. Weden, Chloe E. Bird, Jose J. Escarce, Nicole Lurie

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The principal objective of this study is to characterize the places in which people live by factors associated with physical and mental wellbeing. The authors demonstrate a new approach that employs neighborhood measures such as social environment, built environment, commuting and migration, and demographics and household composition to classify neighborhoods into archetypes. The number of neighborhood archetypes, their defining attributes, and their change/stability between 1990 and 2000 is analyzed using latent class analysis applied to a rich array of data sources. In both years, six archetypes of U.S. neighborhoods are differentiated which occur at prevalence from 13% to 20%: Mobile single-household, urbanites; Low SES, rural; Poor, urban, minority; Low SES, urban, minority commuters; High SES, foreign born, new home owners; and Middle-class suburban/exurban families. Findings show that neighborhoods have remained notably constant between 1990 and 2000, with 76.4% of the neighborhoods categorized as the same archetype ten years later. The approach to defining neighborhood archetypes translates the theoretical aspects of research on neighborhoods and health into a measurement typology that can be employed in applied research questions such as public health surveillance and planning and which can be replicated and extended for use in other historical, geographical, and substantive applications.

This paper series was made possible by the NIA funded RAND Center for the Study of Aging and the NICHD funded RAND Population Research Center.

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