This paper fills this gap by addressing two research questions: first, we ask, are the activity patterns (outdoor play and television watching) of five-year-old children living in large cities associated with children’s weight status? Second, we ask, is residential context, and neighborhood safety in particular, associated with children’s activity patterns? Consistent with past research, we find that outdoor play is negatively associated with weight status, while television watching is positively associated with weight status. We also find, unexpectedly, that the poorest children are playing outdoors the most and watching the most television. Finally, we find that three measures of residential context: living in public housing, mothers’ perceptions of neighborhood collective efficacy, and interviewer-assessed neighborhood physical disorder, are positively associated with children’s physical activity, but that neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage is not. Thus, this paper answers calls both for more research into the determinants of child obesity as well as more work integrating objective and subjective neighborhood characteristics and physical activity (Foster and Giles-Corti 2008).

Document Type

Research Paper

Publication Date


Discussion Paper Number

DP 2009-07