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Research Project

Relationship Between Obesity and Built Environment in the Chicago Area

Driver’s license data sets were obtained from the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. The approximately seven million records received provide three critical pieces of information, height, weight and address. The height and weight allows a computation of the BMI index.

Principal Investigator
Metaxatos, Paul
Research Area(s)
Data Development
Policy Analysis
Funding Source
Metropolitan Transportation Support Initiative (METSI)


The focus of this study was to investigate the impact of various land-use, socioeconomic, transportation and demographic factors on obesity rates in the Chicago region and determine to what extent urban sprawl contributes to obesity. Some suggest that highways cause urban sprawl and therefore expansion of the highway network is at the root cause of obesity. While we have shown in our earlier reports that there is only a tenuous connection between highways and sprawl and other factors seem to be much more important, the perception that highways cause sprawl persists. NOTE: A report or paper from this research is not immediately available.