University of Cambridge > > Land Economy Departmental Seminar Series > Urban wealth modelling: individual effects analysis of planning and design

Urban wealth modelling: individual effects analysis of planning and design

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Professor Webster will talk about the ESRC Transformative Research funded project: Urban Whealth Modelling. The transformative idea is that with big data, massively powerful computing and modern advancements in spatial and statistical analysis, we should be able to detect the effects of urban planning interventions on individuals. This would help overcome two major obstacles to current evaluation methodologies: the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem and the Ecological Fallacy. We experiment in two impact domains: health and wealth. In this talk, Professor Webster describes an experiment that attempts to detect the independent effects of urban design – street and services configuration – on individually measured obesity and mental health. The results are surprising to planners but not to public health professionals and scientists: urban configuration is a significant public health intervention. Shape matters. More precisely, accessibility matters. The findings reported indicate that general and special accessibility (respectively, connectivity to everything and everyone else and connectivity to specific health reducing and enhancing facilities) have an independent correlation with both obesity (Body Mass Index), and mental health. Professor Webster will discuss the extension of the reported study to (a) the world’s largest gene-social-built environment study of public health and (b) individual-effects modelling of urban policy impacts.

Chris Webster is Professor of Urban Planning and Head of the School of Planning and Geography at Cardiff University where he has been teaching and researching since 1984. Before taking up a university post he worked as an urban planner in London and as an economic modeller in a development bank in Bangkok. He is often regarded as an economist because of his style of analysis, but most of his economics has, in fact, been learnt on the job. He is committed to interdisciplinary research, believing that triangulation across paradigms and methods leads to greater insight than is often found in mono-disciplinary scholarship. Since 1999 he has co-organised a multi-disciplinary network investigating the global spread of gated communities and private urban governance.

This talk is part of the Land Economy Departmental Seminar Series series.

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