Social Inequalities in Neighborhood Conditions: Spatial Relationships between Sociodemographic and Food Environments in Alameda County, California

Journal of MapsJournal of Maps, Volume 8, Issue 4, December 2012, pages 344-348

Catherine Cubbin, Jina Jun, Claire Margerison-Zilko, Nicolas Welch, James Sherman, Talia McCray, and Barbara Parmenter

“Previous research suggests that neighborhoods in the United States with high concentrations of poverty or of racial/ethnic minorities have lower access to healthy foods and greater access to unhealthy foods, compared with higher income or predominantly White, non-Hispanic neighborhoods. Lower access is thought to influence dietary habits and resulting health consequences, such as obesity. While most studies have focused on either neighborhood SES or features of the built environment, few have explicitly examined both. Using data from the Geographic Research on Wellbeing study, we map the spatial relationships between sociodemographic characteristics (poverty trajectories, racial/ethnic/nativity composition) and food environments in Alameda County, California. Our map presents poverty trajectories and racial/ethnic/nativity composition at the tract level, as well as maps depicting accessibility to healthy, unhealthy, and a composite of both, based on rasterized maps and a network analysis of food types within a quarter-mile walking distance. We found that neighborhoods that have experienced long-term poverty have the greatest access to both healthy and unhealthy food outlets compared with more economically advantaged neighborhoods. We also found that predominantly Black/Latino neighborhoods had the greatest access to healthy foods compared with other neighborhoods with a different race/ethnicity/nativity composition. Neighborhoods experiencing long-term affluence, as well as predominantly White neighborhoods, had the lowest access to any of the food types, which likely reflects their surburban locations. Results suggest that spatial relationships between sociodemographic characteristics and food access at the neighborhood level depend upon place and urbanization.”