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The relationship between site quality and population age structure : three case studies, suburban Vancouver Weston, Peter James

Abstract

The staring point for this study was a consideration of the relationship between man and his urban environment. In the context of an industrial society, much larger populations live in the city than in the rural areas. The cities are growing rapidly and there is a tendency for urban regions to form as adjacent cities coalesce. The spatial distribution of residential growth has favoured suburban areas: in this way, the typical suburban, single family dwelling has become an important constituent of the city. Man creates much of his urban environment and, conversely, he is affected by his urban environment. Since single family residential land uses are a major element, it is important that their impact on man be assessed. This study presents an approach to the problem, and determines certain demographic characteristics that reflect the impact of the suburbanization process. Initial investigations revealed the following points: The design and character of single family dwellings are oriented to serve married couples with dependent children. They are not well suited to other types of households, such as elderly couples or unmarried individuals. Thus, married couples with dependent children are over-represented in suburban populations. Individual suburbs are designed according to a limited price range on the market and have, as a result, a fairly homogeneous residential quality. Since the occupant's ability to pay for accommodation reflects his socio-economic class, it might be expected that each suburb has a propensity to be occupied by one socio-economic class. Further, distinctive demographic performance has been observed in each socio-economic class: quantitative differentials in population age structure are the most convenient indicators of different demographic performances. Therefore, it was hypothesized that there is an associated relationship between residential quality (site quality herein) and population age structure in single family residential areas. Three sample areas in metropolitan Vancouver were selected. Criteria were set out and employed in selecting the samples to ensure that they represented the variables adequately. Accordingly, part of Census Tract 49 (Fraserview), Census Tract 39 (part of West Point Grey) and part of Census Tract 131 (British Properties), are investigated herein. In order to validate the hypothesis it was deemed necessary to (a) assess differences in site quality between the samples, (b) assess quantitative differences in population age structure between the samples, (c) assess the impact of zoning on the variables, and (d) correlate the variables. The methodological approach was to carry out a literature research for the variables to provide the context for a statistical investigation and define the variable characteristics amenable to statistical measures. A system of rating was designed and used for the site quality variable and a system of indices for the population age structure variable. Zoning was investigated by literature research only. Finally, the findings of the literature research were summarized and the variables were correlated by the Pearson product-moment correlation (r). The literature research indicated that man's relationship to his residential environment is very complex and it is in flux. At the simplest level of ecology, man finds nourishment and shelter in his surrounding. However, his response is tempered by psychological needs, such as security and privacy, and sociological needs, for example, status. Urbanization has imposed fundamental changes on this relationship. In addition, the Industrial Revolution has irrevocably committed world nations to the city. Resulting strains and dysfunctional elements have generated a search for an optimal urban environment. "Suburbia," in metropolitan areas in particular, and "new towns" are two important urban forms that have evolved. Zoning by-laws were developed as public control over the private use of land, largely to protect suburban areas from invasion by noxious and conflicting uses. A major impact of the instrument has been to encourage the development of extensive areas of residential uses. Modern industrial cities are growing to such great sizes that segregation of the places of work, commerce and residence is no longer functionally viable. In addition, social changes have occurred, giving the adult offspring financial and social independence from his parents. In the absence of suitable accommodation in the suburbs, the move "downtown" by this age group is effectively institutionalized. There is evidence that the rate of construction and the date of construction constitute an important exogenous variable to the relationship under study. A new suburban development is occupied predominantly by young married couples and their dependent children. When a suburb is constructed rapidly, a sharply bimodal population age structure results. On the other hand, slow development leads to a subdued bimodal population age structure because it is occupied by several "cohorts" of married couples. The date of construction determines the location of the bimodal age groups on the population age structure continuum. This particular aspect deserves more attention than was possible in this study. Correlation of the variables by the Pearson product-moment correlative indicated that the hypothesis is valid (r = -.72). The level of significance is substantial and the relationship is inverse and linear. That is, as the site quality rating increases, the age structure index (quantitative hetrogeneity) tends to decrease. The relationship is associative rather than causal; the values of both variables are determined by the propensity for a suburb to be occupied predominantly by one socioeconomic class. The component parts of the age structure index were correlated to the site quality rating. It was found that the sex ratio of the 20 to 24 year age group has a very high level of significance (r = - 1.00). This correlative indicates a complete inverse linear relationship and suggests that this relationship might be employed for extrapolation and prediction. The relationships under study and the approach to it relate to the planning process through the types of information gathered and techniques used. An individual's age is a primary determinant of his behaviour; for example, from ages five to at least sixteen, he attends school. In aggregates of individuals, therefore, an over-representation in an age group results in disportionately high demand for age related facilities. In addition, this demand will be temporary, unless the individuals that outgrow the need for such facilities are continuously replaced. This study demonstrates that over-representation in certain age groups is, in fact, typical of suburbia. The degree of over-representation varies from sample to sample in what might be a predictable manner. As metropolitan areas grow and diversify, this type of information will provide a basis for more sensitive and precise decision making in the planning process. The techniques of research used in this study indicate that certain qualitative aspects of the urban environment are amenable to measurement and statistical manipulation. The approach used was to develop a system to approximate an individual's response to his environment. This seems to be a key to dealing objectively and accurately with certain difficult aspects of quality in planning research.

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