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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Methodology for the Disaggregate, Multidimensional Measurement of Residential Neighbourhood Type


Binary designation of a residential neighbourhood as either traditional or suburban is a distortion of reality, since a location may have some characteristics of both types and since residents in different parts of the neighbonrhood may perceive its character differently. This paper presents and applies a methodology for assessing neighbourhood type that results in a measure that is continuous rather than binary, disaggregate rather than aggregate, and potentially multidimensional. Specifically, 18 variables identified by the literature as distinguishing traditional and suburban locations are measured for 852 residents of 5 San Francisco area neighbourhoods. These data are factor-analysed to develop scales on which each individual has a person-specific score. Although we expected a single ’tradifionainess’ dimension to result, instead we found two factors: traditional and suburban. Study neighbourhoods could and did score highly on both dimensions, and considerable individual variation within neighbourhood was observed. By more accurate|y capturing the complexity in classifying a neighbourhood and the heterogeneity of individual perception within a neighbourhood, use of this methodology to measure neighbourhood type is expected to improve models involving residential location as an endogenous or exogenous variable.

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