Effects of the Built Environment on Childhood Obesity: The Case of Urban Recreational Trails and Crime

29 Pages Posted: 25 May 2011

See all articles by Robert Sandy

Robert Sandy

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) - Department of Economics

Rusty Tchernis

Georgia State University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Jeffrey Wilson

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)

Gilbert Liu

Indiana University - Children's Health Services Research

Xilin Zhou

Georgia State University

Date Written: May 9, 2011

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 two pounds 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.

Keywords: childhood obesity, built environment, crime

JEL Classification: H4, I12, I18

Suggested Citation

Sandy, Robert and Tchernis, Rusty and Wilson, Jeffrey and Liu, Gilbert and Zhou, Xilin, Effects of the Built Environment on Childhood Obesity: The Case of Urban Recreational Trails and Crime (May 9, 2011). Andrew Young School of Policy Studies Research Paper Series No. 11-27, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1850833 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1850833

Robert Sandy

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) - Department of Economics ( email )

425 University Boulevard
Indianapolis, IN 46202-5140
Germany

Rusty Tchernis (Contact Author)

Georgia State University - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 3992
Atlanta, GA 30302-3992
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www2.gsu.edu/~ecort

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Jeffrey Wilson

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) ( email )

1309 E. 10th St.
Indianapolis, IN 47405
United States

Gilbert Liu

Indiana University - Children's Health Services Research ( email )

410 W. 10th St.
Indianapolis, IN 46202
United States

Xilin Zhou

Georgia State University ( email )

35 Broad Street
Atlanta, GA 30303-3083
United States

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