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Quantifying the urban environment: A scale measure of urbanicity outperforms the urban-rural dichotomy


  • Dahly, Darren L.
  • Adair, Linda S.


The rapid urbanization of the developing world has important consequences for human health. Although several authorities have called for better research on the relationships between urbanicity and health, most researchers still use a poor measurement of urbanicity, the urban-rural dichotomy. Our goal was to construct a scale of urbanicity using community level data from the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey. We used established scale development methods to validate the new measure and tested its performance against the dichotomy. The new scale illustrated misclassification by the urban-rural dichotomy, and was able to detect differences in urbanicity, both between communities and across time, that were not apparent before. Furthermore, using a continuous measure of urbanicity allowed for better illustrations of the relationships between urbanicity and health. The new scale is a better measure of urbanicity than the traditionally used urban-rural dichotomy.

Suggested Citation

  • Dahly, Darren L. & Adair, Linda S., 2007. "Quantifying the urban environment: A scale measure of urbanicity outperforms the urban-rural dichotomy," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(7), pages 1407-1419, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:64:y:2007:i:7:p:1407-1419

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ruel, Marie T. & Haddad, Lawrence & Garrett, James L., 1999. "Some Urban Facts of Life: Implications for Research and Policy," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(11), pages 1917-1938, November.
    2. McDade, Thomas W. & Adair, Linda S., 2001. "Defining the "urban" in urbanization and health: a factor analysis approach," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 55-70, July.
    3. Ruel, Marie T. & Haddad, Lawrence James & Garrett, James L., 1999. "Some urban facts of life," FCND discussion papers 64, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    4. Yach, Derek & Mathews, Catherine & Buch, Eric, 1990. "Urbanisation and health: Methodological difficulties in undertaking epidemiological research in developing countries," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 507-514, January.
    5. Mutatkar, R. K., 1995. "Public health problems of urbanization," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 41(7), pages 977-981, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Van de Poel, Ellen & O'Donnell, Owen & Van Doorslaer, Eddy, 2009. "Urbanization and the spread of diseases of affluence in China," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 200-216, July.
    2. Davis, Brennan & Grier, Sonya, 2015. "A tale of two urbanicities: Adolescent alcohol and cigarette consumption in high and low-poverty urban neighborhoods," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 68(10), pages 2109-2116.
    3. repec:gam:jlands:v:8:y:2019:i:3:p:40-:d:209444 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:gam:jeners:v:12:y:2019:i:12:p:2308-:d:240410 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Colchero, M. Arantxa & Caballero, Benjamin & Bishai, David, 2008. "The effect of income and occupation on body mass index among women in the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Surveys (1983-2002)," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(9), pages 1967-1978, May.
    6. Okoruwa, V. & Ikudayisi, A., 2018. "Urbanization and Food Security: Empirical Evidence from Households in Urban Southwest Nigeria," 2018 Conference, July 28-August 2, 2018, Vancouver, British Columbia 277053, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    7. Harini Nagendra & Hita Unnikrishnan & Sreerupa Sen, 2013. "Villages in the City: Spatial and Temporal Heterogeneity in Rurality and Urbanity in Bangalore, India," Land, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(1), pages 1-18, December.
    8. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:8:p:1405-:d:107684 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Elisa Prieto-Lara & Ricardo OcaƱa-Riola, 2010. "Updating Rurality Index for Small Areas in Spain," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 95(2), pages 267-280, January.
    10. E. Van de Poel & O. O'Donnell & E. Van Doorslaer, 2009. "The Health Penalty of China's Rapid Urbanization," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 09-016/3, Tinbergen Institute.
    11. Zachary Zimmer & Luoman Bao & Nanette L. Mayol & Feinian Chen & Tita Lorna L. Perez & Paulita L. Duazo, 2017. "Functional limitation trajectories and their determinants among women in the Philippines," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 36(30), pages 863-892.
    12. Townley, Greg & Brusilovskiy, Eugene & Salzer, Mark S., 2017. "Urban and non-urban differences in community living and participation among individuals with serious mental illnesses," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 177(C), pages 223-230.
    13. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:31:y:2018:i:c:p:238-248 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Firestone, Rebecca & Punpuing, Sureeporn & Peterson, Karen E. & Acevedo-Garcia, Dolores & Gortmaker, Steven L., 2011. "Child overweight and undernutrition in Thailand: Is there an urban effect?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(9), pages 1420-1428, May.
    15. Jones-Smith, Jessica C. & Popkin, Barry M., 2010. "Understanding community context and adult health changes in China: Development of an urbanicity scale," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(8), pages 1436-1446, October.


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