The built environment, travel attitude, and travel behavior: Residential self-selection or residential determination?

Tao Lin, Donggen WANG*, Xiaodong Guan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

107 Citations (Scopus)


In examining the impacts of the built environment on travel behavior, studies focused on residential self-selection mostly assume that people self-select residential built environment based on their travel preferences. However, the residential self-selection hypothesis is challenged for a number of reasons including the arguments that that at least in some societies a large percentage of people do not have the privilege to self-select their residence and the built environment may have a significant influence on a person's travel attitude. To shed some light on this debate, this paper makes use of data from a household activity-diary survey conducted in Beijing, China, in 2011–2012 to examine both the hypothesis of residential self-selection and that of residential environment determination. We adopt the natural experimental approach and divide the sample into two groups based on whether or not the respondents had much freedom in regard to choosing where to live: one with the possibility of self-selection and the other one without this possibility. We found reciprocal influences between residential built environment and travel attitude/preference for the first group and influence of residential built environment on travel preferences for the second group. We argue that the complex relationships between the built environment, travel attitude, and travel behavior are featured by both residential self-selection and residential determination. Failing to acknowledge the effects of the built environment on travel attitude may lead to the overestimation of the influence of residential self-selection on the link between the built environment and travel behavior and underestimation of the influence of the built environment on travel behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-122
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Transport Geography
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Transportation
  • Environmental Science(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Natural experiment
  • Residential determination
  • Residential self-selection
  • The built environment
  • Travel attitude


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