Redefining Neighborhoods Using Common Destinations: Social Characteristics of Activity Spaces and Home Census Tracts Compared

Malia Jones, University of California, Los Angeles
Anne Pebley, University of California, Los Angeles

Neighborhood effects research often focuses on the residential census tract, but most people regularly spend time outside their home tract. We use self-reported destinations from the L.A.FANS to compare the characteristics of respondents’ home neighborhoods to those of two types of activity spaces: nodes and polygons. Using multilevel models, we ask how personal characteristics affect the total size, and the average and range of social characteristics of activity spaces. Redefining neighborhoods to include the range of places people visit attenuates the extremes of neighborhood characteristics, which could explain the often weak causal effects found in the literature. Across characteristics and neighborhood definitions, we observe a strong tendency for people to be isolated within their own social group. Activity spaces offer promise as a better fit for modeling how people experience social-geographic space.

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Presented in Session 4: Reconceptualizing Neighborhood Contexts: Measuring Contexts and Processes