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Posts from June 2011

Whole Foods Habitus

Saturday, June 18th, 2011 11:33a.m.

I believe firmly in the importance of research to inform policy based on observed facts. But, sometimes art expresses truth better than research ever could. I present the following as evidence of art capturing the essence of the Whole Foods habitus.

The video is of course meant to parody the cultural conventions of Whole Foods; but, I think that it really speaks to larger truths about culture, food, and inequality. While the video pokes fun at the Whole Foods consumer, I think that it accurately reflects how out of touch a vast swath of relatively privileged Americans are regarding the real struggles of poorer and many minority residents face when attempting to eat a healthy diet. Forget the fact that kombucha isn't on the shelves, many can't find produce or unspoiled meat as Dan Rose, my friend from graduate school documents in this piece Detroit neighborhoods where they are even lucky if they have grocery stores.

  tags: inequality, nutrition, obesity, whole-foods categories: Neighborhoods & Public Health

Chicago Neighborhood Data Website -- CCAHS

Friday, June 10th, 2011 11:37p.m.

After much hard work on the part of very talented people, the website for the Chicago Community Adult Health Study launched this week! For those who do not know about the project, it is an excellent dataset to examine influences of neighborhood environments on health outcomes among adults. The sample comes from all 343 Neighborhood Clusters in the city of Chicago, which allows a wide range of analyses across neighborhood environments. In addition to the survey of informants, there is also very rich data on the physical aspects of the neighborhood environment based on systematic social observations in all of the 343 Neighborhood Clusters.

Estimated Levels of Physical Disorder

I took advantage of this in part of my dissertation to explore how small-scale predictors of neighborhood disorder could be constructed from the sample of systematic social observations. Combining the insights from Steve Raudenbush and Rob Sampson regarding the benefit of using multiple items to rate characteristics of the neighborhood environment like disorder and the benefits of the geostatistical method of kriging to measure small-scale changes in the environment, I created a smooth surface of physical disorder across Chicago. Based on this method, one is not limited to pre-defined definitions of neighborhoods because block-level estimates can be reassembled into any configuration desired by the researcher. I then used this to show that observed physical disorder has a strong effect on residents' perceptions of neighborhood safety when we measure physical disorder at very small scales around a respondent, but almost no influence when we measure physical disorder at larger scales.

Of course, this is only one of the ways that I have used (and continue to use) this data. If you are interested, feel free to contact me if you want to learn more about the data -- particularly the systematic social observation component.

  tags: data, disorder, kriging, measurement, neighborhood-effects category: Neighborhoods

Nesting Stata Macros, or Hacking a Hash Map

Monday, June 6th, 2011 6:37p.m.

Programming in Stata is relatively straightforward and this is partly because the programming syntax is both powerful and relatively straightforward. There are, however, a few minor annoyances in Stata's language including using the backtick and apostrophe to indicate local macros (i.e.,`localname'). Among these shortcomings, I would argue that the lack of anything like a list in Stata's language is one of the largest.

In most langauges, you can store a list of items and refer to the item in the list by some sort of index. This is particularly helpful for iterating over the same step multiple times. Lists generally come in two flavors: lists to which you can refer to an item by its position in the list or lists which you can refer to by a keyword (called hash maps in computer science lingo). Stata's matrices can be used for the first, though doing so might become complicated if you want to do something besides storing basic numbers or strings.

  tags: data-management, macros, Stata, tips-n-tricks category: Programming

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