Context and Death: A Spatial Investigation of the Impacts of Social Capital and Natural Amenities on Mortality In U.S. Counties

Tse-Chuan Yang, Pennsylvania State University
Leif Jensen, Pennsylvania State University
Murali Haran, Pennsylvania State University

The proliferation of spatial data and the statistical techniques to analyze them have naturally given rise to increasing attention to relationships between place characteristics and human health. While some is known about how social capital and natural amenities affect individual health, their impact on mortality remains unexplored. We address this issue through analysis of data on U.S. counties, and in so doing rectify three shortcomings in the relevant literature: the crude and limited measures of social capital, the unknown impacts of natural amenities on mortality, and insufficient attention to spatial dependence which can yield incorrect findings. Our exploratory spatial data analysis demonstrates an obvious mortality clustering pattern where the Appalachian region, the Black Belt, and the Mississippi Valley are disadvantaged relative to the Great Plain and the Mexico border region. Furthermore, the spatial explanatory analysis not only indicates social capital and natural amenities benefit human health, but also indicates that spatial structure cannot be ignored.

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Presented in Session 128: Spatial Dimensions of Local Processes