Background: Further development of high quality measures of neighborhood perceptions will require extensions and refinements to our existing approaches to reliability assessment. This study examined the test-retest reliability of perceptions of the neighborhood environment by socioeconomic status (SES).
Methods: Test and retest surveys were conducted using a mail survey method with persons aged 40 to 65 years (n = 222, 78.2% response rate). SES was measured using the respondent's education level and the socioeconomic characteristics of their neighborhood of residence. Reliability was assessed using intraclass correlations (ICC) estimated with random coefficient models.
Results: Overall, the 27 items had moderate-to-substantial reliability (ICC = 0.41-0.74). Few statistically significant differences were found in ICC between the education groups or neighborhoods, although the ICCs were significantly larger among the low SES for items that measured perceptions of neighborhood greenery, interesting things to see, litter, traffic volume and speed, crime, and rowdy youth on the streets.
Conclusion: For the majority of the items, poor reliability and subsequent exposure misclassification is no more or less likely among low educated respondents and residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods. Estimates of the association between neighborhood perceptions and physical activity therefore are likely to be similarly precise irrespective of the respondent's socioeconomic background.