Using hand-draw maps of residential neighbourhood to compute level of circularity and investigate its predictors

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Issue: Volume 9, Issue 2, 2015


Investigating individuals’ Hand-Drawn Residential Neighbourhood (HDRN) maps may help determine some of the basic geometrical properties found in cognitive maps of meaningful geographical spaces. The main objective was to empirically determine an optimal radius size for measuring environmental attributes of the RN when using circular spatial buffers. HDRN maps from the Making Connections study were explored using minimum bounded circles (MBC). Baseline data on 4,742 community-dwelling adults showed that 30% of people drew HDRN that included > 70% of the MBC. We recommend 0.25 miles as an optimum radius size when attempting to measure aspects of the RN. Multivariate linear regressions indicated lower levels of circularity for females, non-Latino-others, for people living longer in their residential neighbourhood, and for large drawn polygons. In contrast, regression results indicated higher levels of circularity for non-Latino-blacks (compared to non-Latino-whites) and those with some college education (compared to those with a bachelors’ degree and beyond). We conclude with advice on best practices for measuring environmental attributes of residential neighbourhoods when using circular spatial buffers.

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Authors Affiliations

Carlos Siordia(a)*, Claudia J. Coulton (b)
(a) University of Pittsburgh, USA
(b) Case Western Reserve University, USA
* Corresponding author. Email:



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