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Effects of the built environment on childhood obesity: The case of urban recreational trails and crime

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  • Sandy, Robert
  • Tchernis, Rusty
  • Wilson, Jeffrey
  • Liu, Gilbert
  • Zhou, Xilin

Abstract

We study the effects of urban environment on childhood obesity by concentrating on the effects of walking trails and crime close to children's homes on their BMI and obesity status. We use a unique dataset, which combines information on recreational trails in Indianapolis with data on violent crimes and anthropomorphic and diagnostic data from children's clinic visits between 1996 and 2005. We find that having a trail near a home reduces children's weight. However, the effect depends on the amount of nearby violent crimes. Significant reductions occur only in low crime areas and trails could have opposite effects on weight in high crime areas. These effects are primarily among boys, older children, and children who live in higher income neighborhoods. Evaluated at the mean length of trails this effect for older children in no crime areas would be a reduction of 2lb of the body weight. Falsification tests using planned trails instead of existing trails, show that trails are more likely to be located in areas with heavier children, suggesting that our results on effects of trails represent a lower bound.

Suggested Citation

  • Sandy, Robert & Tchernis, Rusty & Wilson, Jeffrey & Liu, Gilbert & Zhou, Xilin, 2013. "Effects of the built environment on childhood obesity: The case of urban recreational trails and crime," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 18-29.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:11:y:2013:i:1:p:18-29
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2012.02.005
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Oecd & Nea, 2010. "Case Law," Nuclear Law Bulletin, OECD Publishing, vol. 2009(2), pages 115-127.
    2. Daniel L. Millimet & Rusty Tchernis & Muna Husain, 2010. "School Nutrition Programs and the Incidence of Childhood Obesity," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 45(3).
    3. Ottensmann, John R. & Lindsey, Greg, 2008. "A Use-Based Measure of Accessibility to Linear Features to Predict Urban Trail Use," The Journal of Transport and Land Use, Center for Transportation Studies, University of Minnesota, vol. 1(1), pages 41-63.
    4. Robert Sandy & Gilbert Liu & John Ottensmann & Rusty Tchernis & Jeff Wilson & O. T. Ford, 2011. "Studying the Child Obesity Epidemic with Natural Experiments," NBER Chapters,in: Economic Aspects of Obesity, pages 181-221 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Wen, Ming & Maloney, Thomas N., 2014. "Neighborhood socioeconomic status and BMI differences by immigrant and legal status: Evidence from Utah," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 12(C), pages 120-131.
    2. Srinivasan, C.S., 2013. "Can adherence to dietary guidelines address excess caloric intake? An empirical assessment for the UK," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 574-591.
    3. Walsh, Brendan & Cullinan, John, 2015. "Decomposing socioeconomic inequalities in childhood obesity: Evidence from Ireland," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 16(C), pages 60-72.

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    Keywords

    Childhood obesity; Built environment; Crime;

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