Does the effect of walkable built environments vary by neighborhood socioeconomic status?

Prev Med. 2015 Dec;81:262-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2015.09.008. Epub 2015 Sep 21.


Objective: To examine socioeconomic status as a moderator of the relationship between the built environment and active transportation such as walking or cycling using measures of built environment exposure derived from individuals transport trips.

Methods: The 2008 Montreal Origin-destination (OD) survey provided origin-destination coordinates for a sample of 156,700 participants. We selected participants from this survey that had traveled within the census metropolitan area of Montreal the day preceding the interview, and that were between 18-65 years of age. Measures of connectivity, land-use mix, and density of business and services were collected using 400-m buffers of the trip routes. Logistic regression was used to model the relationship between built environment variables and active transportation.

Results: Trip routes in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quartile of density of business and services or connectivity translated into greater odds of taking AT (compared to a trip in the lowest quartile). Trip routes in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quartile of land-use mix translated into lower odds of taking AT. Trips in the highest quartiles of connectivity and density of business and services were found to have a weaker association with active transportation if the individual undergoing the trip was from a low SES neighborhood.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that previous studies finding no effect modification may have been due to the limitation of measurements of exposures to the residential neighborhood.

Keywords: Active transportation; Connectivity; Density of destinations; Land-use mix; Neighborhood socioeconomic status; Physical activity; Walkability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Environment Design / statistics & numerical data*
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quebec
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Social Class*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transportation / methods
  • Walking* / psychology
  • Young Adult