Living in walkable cities could make you more successful

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There are many myths and facts about the benefits of walking. Studies have debated whether the 10,000 steps a day target is an actual goal people should aim for (Others say it’s not). Fast walkers live longer than their slower counterparts and so on.

Regardless, walking is definitely good for you — and your health — and it can even put you on a greater path to achieving the “American Dream,” according to a new groundbreaking study.

New research found that children who grew up in walkable cities are more likely to move up the economic ladder, and they can even earn more than their parents at the same point in their lives. Translation: There’s a link to walking and the future success of your children.

The stunning study, published in the journal American Psychologist, was led by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who took a look at how location, specifically walkable communities, provided economic mobility for impoverished children than in other cities.

A walkable was defined as “having pedestrian-friendly intersections, adequate lighting, and wide sidewalks,” according to the study. Using tax data of more than nine million Americans born between 1980 and 1982, the study looked at the relationship for more than 3.5 million Americans on three factors: walkability, car ownership, and economic background.

“What we show is that walkability, the way a city is laid out, predicts upward mobility, even above and beyond those factors,” said the University of Virginia graduate psychology student Nicholas Buttrick, one of the authors. “You can control for all of those things and still show that walkability matters. The effect is pretty strong for predicting what areas are going to support upward mobility and what aren’t.”

Buttrick said living in walkable cities not only helps economically but psychologically as well.

“Both of those things seem to predict the American dream – doing better than your parents,” Buttrick said. “We think that feeling like you belong really helps motivate people and increases their resiliency, but all our work to date is correlational, so we can’t point causally at any psychological factor yet.”

The study was conducted by Nicholas Buttrick, Department of Psychology at the University of Virginia, Shigehiro Oishi, Department of Psychology at Columbia University, and Minkyng Koo, Department of Business Administration, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.