When I saw the headline “New Study Shows Walkable Neighborhoods Make People Happier” on TreeHugger, I was immediately concerned. I was afraid that a poorly done study was being used to assert some unsubstantiated claims, and that would not be a good thing for greenness or urbanism or walkable communities.

I am certainly a believer in the greenness and appropriateness of walkable neighborhoods. While I’m not as adamant about it as some of my neighbors are, I do live walkably close to the downtown where I work, so I practice what I preach, at least to some extent.

But the headline made me wonder about the study. Is there truly a causal effect, or are the two characteristics separate from one another? Fortunately, although the headline is somewhat sensationalistic, the article does quote the researcher, who says, “that the study’s results are mitigated by a possible self-selection bias: “People who enjoy walking may choose to live in more walkable neighborhoods,” she says, adding that it would be naïve to say this study “proves” that walkability affects social capital in neighborhoods.”

This, and another issue, are on my mind lately, and need to remain under consideration:

Correlation is not Causation: “Creating a phony health scare with the power of statistical correlation

Weather is not Climate: “Making maple syrup in a hotter world

I want to keep these two issues in mind and to pay more attention to getting down to a clear understanding of the differences in each case. Both of these are BoingBoing posts, but the issues are broad ones, and probably both are widely misunderstood. I hope I haven’t fallen into either of these in things that I’ve written, and I want to stay aware of them and be able to intelligently talk about both.

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