Examining the impacts of neighborhood design and residential self-selection on active travel: A methodological assessment

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66 Scopus citations


A limited number of studies have addressed residential self-selection when considering the relationship between the built environment (BE) and physical activity. Ignoring self-selection may bias the estimate of the strength of the relationship and misinform public policy. Using 2011 data from the Twin Cities, this study employs cross-sectional and quasi-longitudinal analyses to disentangle the impacts between self-selection (through residential preferences and travel attitudes) and neighborhood characteristics on active travel (AT). The two approaches produce somewhat different outcomes: attitudinal factors are extensively present in the cross-sectional analysis and the associations between neighborhood characteristics and AT are greatly attenuated after controlling for attitudinal factors. In contrast, neighborhood characteristics play a dominant role in the quasi-longitudinal analysis, while attitudinal and demographic characteristics carry additional impacts on AT. Overall, both preferences and attitudes help explain the difference in AT. I find that while physical activity infrastructure impacts biking, physical activity infrastructure together with transit and accessibility affects walking, even after controlling for demographic and attitudinal characteristics. The results highlight the importance of shaping the BE in order to provide an infrastructure of alternative modes of transport and access to different land uses in policy efforts to increase AT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-255
Number of pages20
JournalUrban Geography
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 17 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Taylor & Francis.


  • Smart Growth
  • land use
  • physical activity
  • residential self-selection
  • travel


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