Sprawl Brawl Continues

In this TCS Daily piece I cite a recent study which found that slender people in the Chicago area are concentrated in suburban areas, not in the urban core. But now the lead author admits to errors in the study:

A small academic tempest followed news reports in February of a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago that seemed to refute a link between urban sprawl and personal spread. … When the report was called to his attention, [researcher Lawrence] Frank looked over its numbers and spotted an error; the study’s lead author, Dr. Siim SË?Ë?t, had misinterpreted his own numbers. That was embarrassing, says SË?Ë?t, who revised the paper to say it “conforms with” previous studies. Despite the error, SË?Ë?t said he still thinks his study shows that where one lives has less effect on obesity than education and income.

Article here. In other words, the big-picture point I made in the TCS piece still holds:

Neighborhood design might make it a little easier or a little harder to stay in shape, but other factors, from education to income, are much more closely tied to good health. And ultimately, the key to healthy living is self-discipline, and that’s something that can be practiced anywhere.

Since there’s a much stronger correlation between education and obesity than urban form and obesity, maybe fat-fighters should work on getting high school drop outs back to school. And if there’s a bigger-picture point, it’s this: New technologies have long made life less physically demanding. From animal-powered carts to TV remotes, there’s always something new that let’s us get a task done easier and faster. What will we do with that extra time? Some will head to the gym. Others will head the couch. That’s what personal choice is all about. Preserving that freedom of choice is (gasp) even more important than preserving slim waists.