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Developing the Future of Libraries: Phase I Sub-Grant Projects


Are smart cities healthy? Combining novel data sources to investigate the impact of social, economic, and geographic factors on the relationship between employment and health within and across Canadian cities


  • Jenny Godley, Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts, Department of Sociology
  • Seok-Woo Kwon, Associate Professor, Haskayne School of Business


Cities in Canada often make the lists of the ‘smartest’ or the ‘most livable’ cities in North America or even the world. Criteria used for these rankings include density, availability and accessibility of transit, use of sustainable development practices, crime rates, and sometimes healthcare data. As an interdisciplinary team from Business and Sociology, we propose to further explore how Canadian cities of different sizes and in different geographic locations compare with each other in terms of various economic, social and infrastructural factors. We will use publicly available aggregate data to model differences between cities in Canada in terms of overall levels of employment, types of employment, income, demographic profile etc.  Simultaneously, we will examine the individual-level relationship between employment status and health in Canada using Statistics Canada micro data, the Canadian Community Health Survey, accessed through the Prairie Regional Research Data Centre (RDC). We will then merge these two data sources, in order to examine whether differences in the city-level factors affect the relationship between employment and health at the individual-level within and across cities in Canada.

This project has the potential to develop a multidisciplinary research platform linking sociology, economics, geography, business, and public health. In sociology and public health, there is a long tradition of studying how socioeconomic factors influence individual health. We build on this rich research stream, but extend it by incorporating economic factors pertinent to building smart, sustainable cities.

We do so in two major ways. First, we will compare individual-level health measures from the self-employed and the wage-employed across Canada. We know from previous research that the self-employed tend to be healthier than the wage-employed in Germany, but we do not know if this relationship holds in Canada. In particular, researchers are calling for more detailed examination of the relationship between entrepreneurship and individual health.

Next, we will examine the impact of city-level characteristics on the relationship between employment status and health. If the health outcomes between the two employment categories differ, and if these differences are affected by city-level variables, we will ask what the findings imply for creating a smart and healthy city.

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