, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 727–752 | Cite as

Redefining Neighborhoods Using Common Destinations: Social Characteristics of Activity Spaces and Home Census Tracts Compared

  • Malia JonesEmail author
  • Anne R. Pebley


Research on neighborhood effects has focused largely on residential neighborhoods, but people are exposed to many other places in the course of their daily lives—at school, at work, when shopping, and so on. Thus, studies of residential neighborhoods consider only a subset of the social-spatial environment affecting individuals. In this article, we examine the characteristics of adults’ “activity spaces”—spaces defined by locations that individuals visit regularly—in Los Angeles County, California. Using geographic information system (GIS) methods, we define activity spaces in two ways and estimate their socioeconomic characteristics. Our research has two goals. First, we determine whether residential neighborhoods represent the social conditions to which adults are exposed in the course of their regular activities. Second, we evaluate whether particular groups are exposed to a broader or narrower range of social contexts in the course of their daily activities. We find that activity spaces are substantially more heterogeneous in terms of key social characteristics, compared to residential neighborhoods. However, the characteristics of both home neighborhoods and activity spaces are closely associated with individual characteristics. Our results suggest that most people experience substantial segregation across the range of spaces in their daily lives, not just at home.


Neighborhood Activity spaces Isolation Segregation GIS methods 



This research was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grants R01HD35944 and R01HD41486) and by the Russell Sage Foundation.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Prevention Research, Department of Preventive MedicineKeck School of Medicine of USCLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Department of Community Health Sciences and the California Center for Population ResearchUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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