Mengya Xu, Ph.D., Ph.D. researches food access, social determinants of health, urban informatics and human mobility.

Under the guidance of Dr. John P. Wilson and Dr. Kayla de la Haye, Mengya’s dissertation delved into the accessibility, diversity and structure of the last-mile food environment in Los Angeles, spotlighting associated social and transport disparities. Her work is anchored in the urban planning philosophy of “15-minute cities”. Taking into account diverse transportation modes, such as walking, public transit and driving, she aims to measure the retail food environment within the 15-minute neighborhoods of each of 3.7 million households in Los Angeles County.

Additionally, Mengya is interested in cutting-edge spatial techniques like GPS-based mobility data analysis to derive new insights into grocery shopping behaviors and nutrition security in metropolitan settings like Los Angeles County.

Before joining USC, Mengya contributed as a research assistant on multiple interdisciplinary policy-driven evaluation projects. These include:

  • Assessing walkability and accessibility to educational and health care facilities in Hangzhou and Shanghai
  • Forecasting and evaluating urban land expansion and shrinkage in Beijing and Tianjing
  • Investigating the eco-environmental impacts of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project in Anhui Province.


M.S., Cartography and Geographic Information System, Wuhan University, China
B.S., Geographic Information System, Minor in Finance, Wuhan University, China

Peer-reviewed publications

Xu, M., Wilson, JP, Bruine de Bruin, W, Lerner, L, Horn, AL, Livings, MS, de la Haye, K., 2024. New insights into grocery store visits among east Los Angeles residents using mobility data. Health & Place.

Livings, M., Bruine de Bruin, W., Wilson, J., Lee, B., Xu, M., Frazzini, A., Chandra, S., Weber, K., Babboni, M., & de la Haye, K. 2023. Food Insecurity Is Under-reported in Surveys That Ask About the Past Year. American Journal of Public Health.

Su, S., Zhou, H., Xu, M., Hu, R., Wen, W., & Weng M., 2019. Auditing street walkability and associated social inequalities for planning implications. Journal of Transport Geography, 74:62-76.

Su, S., Li, Z., Xu, M., Cai, Z., & Weng, M., 2017. A geo-big data approach to intra-urban food deserts: Transit-varying accessibility, social inequalities, and implications for urban planning. Habitat International, 64:22-40.

Xu, M., Xin, J., Su, S., Weng, M., & Cai, Z., 2017. Social inequalities of park accessibility in Shenzhen, China: The role of park quality, transport modes, and hierarchical socioeconomic characteristics. Journal of Transport Geography, 62:38-50.

Policy reports

de la Haye, K., Wilson, J., Bruine de Bruin, W., Xu, M., Ramirez, C., Lerner, L., Livings, M., Wasim, N., Perez, M., Fanning, J., Wald, R., & Babboni, M. 2023. Improving Healthy Food Access in Four Eastside Los Angeles Neighborhoods. Dornsife Public Exchange, University of Southern California.

de la Haye, K., Wilson, J., Bruine de Bruin, W., Li, K., Livings, M., Xu, M., Miller, S., Solanky, M, Weber, K., Babboni, K., Wald, R., & Frazzini, A. 2021. Enough to Eat: The Impact of COVID-19 on Food Insecurity and the Food Environment in Los Angeles County, April 2020-September 2021. Dornsife Public Exchange, University of Southern California.