Photo credit: Stephen M. Scott
 +   -  text size:


All entries categorized “Public Health”

Two New Papers on Residential Preferences and Consequences of Racial Segregation

Friday, Oct. 14th, 2011 10:34p.m.

In the commotion of moving and starting my new job, I neglected to post about two articles that came out last month that I worked on for quite a while. The first, Reassessing Residential Preferences for Redevelopment, was published in City & Community last month in a special issue on gentrification. My paper argues that much of our public policy and debate regarding changing residential preferences for gentrification occurs without actually measuring preferences in the population. Using the 2004-5 Chicago Area Study, I do just that to show that preferences break down along groups defined by home ownership. Home owners in the city of Chicago, regardless of race, are much more likely than their suburban counterparts to consider a redeveloped neighborhood. Meanwhile, race tends to unify preferences among renters in that blacks -- regardless of whether they live in Chicago or suburban Cook County -- would consider redeveloped neighborhood much more than their white renting counterparts, with Latino renters in between. I also find that traditional reasons middle-class people prefer redeveloped neighborhoods touted by gentrification and creative class proponents only really apply among whites while black home owners prefer access to city services and Latinos prioritize access to employment.

To the extent that cities hold developers accountable to mixed-income plans, these results suggest that redevelopment might help integrate communities economically and racially. Of course, this means actually holding developers accountable, which is sometimes difficult to do. Overall, the debate regarding who would prefer to live in redeveloped neighborhoods needs to be more nuanced and not based on where people do live.

  tags: gentrification, neighborhoods, public-health, residential-mobility, segregation, urban-policy categories: Neighborhoods , Public Health & Urban

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

Obesity is a Badge of Honor

Thursday, June 10th, 2010 6:56p.m.

Last night on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart interviewed National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Spencer Wells about his new book, Pandora's Seed. About half-way into the interview (3:55, to be exact), Stewart asks a great question:

But isn't our obesity almost a medal, a badge of sorts, congratulating us on our...utter domination of the planet?

I'm not sure how well obesity-as-badge-of-honor will get anyone, but to a large degree it is true and example of what demographers call the demographic transition. Rather than dying of infectious diseases that left the human population with relatively high death rates, we now find that disease in developed nations is largely due to chronic conditions. What is interesting about obesity, and why as a sociologist I find it so fascinating, is that it is not only a chronic condition that, as Stewart points out, is an exclusively modern condition (because having enough to eat is a thoroughly modern phenomenon) that has a large behavioral component to it as well. While ecologically obesity might symbolize our triumph, physiologically it might represent a significant step back. The complete list of reasons for my interests in obesity research is a topic for another day, but understanding how the social and cultural logic of that is linked to the physciological component is, in my opinion, an extremely intersting sociological question.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Spencer Wells

  1. I think that being a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence has to be the coolest job ever. I want to figure out how to become one of those. 

  tags: demography, Jon-Stewart, obesity categories: Media & Public Health

Seeing Obesity Over Time

Monday, May 10th, 2010 7:26p.m.

The blog Graphic Sociology, part of the Contexts community of blogs, provides an excellent forum for discussing the visual presentation of information. The blog's author, Flaneuse(a.k.a., Laura Noren), provides examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly in data visualization with a narrative of "what works" and "what needs work" for each graphic.

Yesterday, Flaneuse had a post on obesity trends that originated at the blog Flowing Data. Nathan Yau, the author of Flowing Data posted a challenge to his readers to make an image that answers the question are people getting fatter faster?1 that improves on the following one:

Flowing Data Obesity Trends

Despite the solutions posted at Flowing Data, I actually think that the original graph is not a bad representation of the data; however, it suffers from a few technical problems that I think would be easy to solve. First, the graph does not indicate that the lines are birth cohorts (though Nathan's text does indicate that is what the lines represent). Second, given that they are successive birth cohorts in the study, I think that the colors could have been used more creatively to indicate that they are successive (i.e., the oldest cohort could have been rendered in light gray and the youngest in dark gray with appropriate scaling in between). There are two reasons that I like this graph better than many of the alternatives. First, it follows people over time, which makes a narrative easier to figure out from the image. Second, because what we are interested in is the change in slope of the percent obese across successive cohorts, the original image displays this very well.

  1. I don't agree with the phrasing "getting fatter," but that's what he wrote. 

  tags: data-visualization, graphics, obesity category: Public Health

Front Page


  • Information about the purpose and topics of this blog can be found here.






  • The views presented here are solely and entirely my own, they do not represent those of my colleagues, employer, or any funding agencies which may support me.
  • The writing on this blog is covered by a Creative Commons License (described here). Feel free to distribute or re-post with a link to the original content provided that it is freely available to others.
  • Creative Commons License