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.
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.