Putting People Into Place

Over the past two decades, there has been an explosion of empirical research on neighborhoods and health. However, although the data and approaches owe much to the early contributions of demographers and population scientists, this debt is largely unrecognized. Likewise, challenges posed in the early literature remain largely unanswered. I argue that just as demographers and population scientists were pioneers in the study of neighborhoods and health, they are uniquely poised to lead the field again. Putting people into place means explaining behavior and outcomes in relation to a potentially changing local context. A more dynamic conceptualization is needed that fully incorporates human agency, integrates multiple dimensions of local social and spatial context, develops the necessary longitudinal data, and implements appropriate tools. Diverse approaches with complementary strengths will help surmount the many analytic challenges to studying the dynamics of neighborhoods and health, including agent-based microsimulation models.