Do neighbourhoods affect health? Disentangling selection and causation

This project has received an ODISSEI Microdata Access Grant (MAG) in 2020.

Project applicants: dr. Joost Oude Groeniger (EUR-ESSB), Nienke Boderie (Erasmus MC) and prof. dr. Hans van Kippersluis (EUR-ESE).

Project abstract

Population health differs dramatically across neighbourhoods. Contextual determinants of health such as neighbourhood effects have become a focal point of research. However, the scientific community is still actively debating whether neighbourhood effects are causal (i.e. living in a certain neighbourhood causally affects one’s health) or merely the result of selection effects (i.e. healthier people moving in an out of certain neighbourhoods). This distinction is crucial for policymakers, as only the identification of causal effects could inform policies and intervention initiatives.

To disentangle selection from causal effects, this project will apply a two-step approach. First, this project will model the neighbourhood choice of people that relocate between neighbourhoods, and it will incorporate these results in a model that investigates the effect of the neighbourhood characteristics (e.g. neighbourhood deprivation, demographic mix and safety) on health behaviours (smoking and alcohol use) and medicine use (as an indicator of health and mental wellbeing).

The project focuses on the city of Rotterdam as this city has a wide variety in neighbourhood characteristics and provides unique opportunities for local policy evaluation. The proposed research project promises to contribute valuable information about the health effects of neighbourhoods, providing urgently needed information to policy-makers on opportunities to reduce the prevalence of smoking, alcohol use and mental health problems.

Conducting research with CBS microdata

Statistics Netherlands (CBS) collects a wide range of data for its statistical tasks, many of them microdata at the level of individual persons or organisations. Protection of the confidentiality of the data has the highest priority for CBS. Within strict safety conditions however, universities and other authorized research institutes can get Remote Access to such data to perform statistical analyses for their own scientific or statistical purposes. The microdata themselves remain strictly within a secure environment within CBS. Under applicable conditions researcher can also bring in additional dataset to be linked with CBS microdata. Before aggregate statistical results are exported from the secured environment, CBS will check whether these results do not contain any risk for disclosure of information on individual persons or organisations.

Read more about using microdata within the CBS Remote Access Environment.

Photo by Sven Vermeulen on Unsplash.