Volume 32 - Article 54 | Pages 1469–1486

Measuring a neighborhood affluence-deprivation continuum in urban settings: Descriptive findings from four US cities

By Masayoshi Oka

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Date received:06 May 2014
Date published:10 Jun 2015
Word count:2450
Keywords:area-based measure, neighborhood affluence, neighborhood deprivation, neighborhood socioeconomic characteristics, United States


Background: In the United States (US), the area-based measure of neighborhood socioeconomic characteristics used in health research varies considerably from one study to another. However, it is unclear whether different area-based measures capture the same or different dimension of neighborhood context.

Objective: The purpose of this study is to examine the relationships between single measures (i.e., area-based median household income and median family income) and composite measures (i.e., area-based measures derived from a combination of multiple variables) of neighborhood socioeconomic characteristics.

Methods: Area-based socioeconomic data at the census tract level were obtained from the 2005-09 American Community Survey (ACS) for St. Louis, Missouri; Chicago, Illinois; San Diego, California; and Los Angeles, California. Single measures of neighborhood socioeconomic characteristics were simply taken from the ACS data, and composite measures were derived from the computational methods described in previous studies. Separate correlation statistics were then conducted for four US cities.

Results: Despite the differences in how selected area-based measures of neighborhood socioeconomic characteristics were derived from the ACS data, they were highly correlated (either negatively or positively) with one another. In other words, selected area-based measures capture the same dimension of neighborhood context.

Conclusions: A neighborhood affluence-deprivation continuum in US cities may be captured by an area-based median household (or family) income. Nevertheless, to ensure the generalizability and transportability of results from four US cities, further comparisons of area-based measures (not limited to those considered in this study) are needed in different US cities.

Author's Affiliation

Masayoshi Oka - Washington University in St. Louis, United States of America [Email]

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