Selling New Neighborhoods as Good for Walking: Issues for Measuring Self-Selection

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background:

Self-selection—whether individuals inclined to walk more seek to live in walkable environments—must be accounted for when studying built environment influences on walking. The way neighborhoods are marketed to future residents has the potential to sway residential location choice, and may consequently affect measures of self-selection related to location preferences. We assessed how walking opportunities are promoted to potential buyers, by examining walkability attributes in marketing materials for housing developments.

Methods:

A content analysis of marketing materials for 32 new housing developments in Perth, Australia was undertaken, to assess how walking was promoted in the text and pictures. Housing developments designed to be pedestrian-friendly (LDs) were compared with conventional developments (CDs).

Results:

Compared with CDs, LD marketing materials had significantly more references to ‘public transport,’ ‘small home sites,’ ‘walkable parks/open space,’ ‘ease of cycling,’ ‘safe environment,’ and ‘boardwalks.’ Other walk-ability attributes approached significance.

Conclusion:

Findings suggest the way neighborhoods are marketed may contribute to self-reported reasons for choosing particular neighborhoods, especially when attributes are not present at the time of purchase. The marketing of housing developments may be an important factor to consider when measuring self-selection, and its influence on the built environment and walking relationship.

The authors are with the School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia.