Examining the impacts of residential self-selection on travel behavior: A focus on methodologies

Patricia L. Mokhtarian, Xinyu Cao

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    413 Scopus citations


    Numerous studies have found that suburban residents drive more and walk less than residents in traditional neighborhoods. What is less well understood is the extent to which the observed patterns of travel behavior can be attributed to the residential built environment itself, as opposed to the prior self-selection of residents into a built environment that is consistent with their predispositions toward certain travel modes and land use configurations. To date, most studies addressing this attitudinal self-selection issue fall into seven categories: direct questioning, statistical control, instrumental variables models, sample selection models, joint discrete choice models, structural equations models, and longitudinal designs. This paper reviews and evaluates these alternative approaches with respect to this particular application (a companion paper focuses on the empirical findings of 28 studies using these approaches). We identify some advantages and disadvantages of each approach, and note the difficulties in actually quantifying the absolute and/or relative extent of the true influence of the built environment on travel behavior. Although time and resource limitations are recognized, we recommend usage of longitudinal structural equations modeling with control groups, a design which is strong with respect to all causality requisites.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)204-228
    Number of pages25
    JournalTransportation Research Part B: Methodological
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Mar 2008


    • Built environment
    • Causality
    • Land use
    • Residential location
    • Smart growth

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