BACKGROUND: Multiple and varied benefits have been suggested for increased neighborhood walkability. However, spatial inequalities in neighborhood walkability likely exist and may be attributable, in part, to residential segregation. OBJECTIVE: Utilizing a spatial demographic perspective, we evaluated potential spatial inequalities in walkable neighborhood amenities across census tracts in Boston, MA (US). METHODS: The independent variables included minority racial/ethnic population percentages and percent of families in poverty. Walkable neighborhood amenities were assessed with a composite measure. Spatial autocorrelation in key study variables were first calculated with the Global Moran's I statistic. Then, Spearman correlations between neighborhood socio-demographic characteristics and walkable neighborhood amenities were calculated as well as Spearman correlations accounting for spatial autocorrelation. We fit ordinary least squares (OLS) regression and spatial autoregressive models, when appropriate, as a final step. RESULTS: Significant positive spatial autocorrelation was found in neighborhood socio-demographic characteristics (e.g. census tract percent Black), but not walkable neighborhood amenities or in the OLS regression residuals. Spearman correlations between neighborhood socio-demographic characteristics and walkable neighborhood amenities were not statistically significant, nor were neighborhood socio-demographic characteristics significantly associated with walkable neighborhood amenities in OLS regression models. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that there is residential segregation in Boston and that spatial inequalities do not necessarily show up using a composite measure.
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