Working with High-Precision Census Data: Limitations and Possibilities

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Population Specialty Group, Spatial Analysis and Modeling Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM (MDT)
Room: Astor Ballroom III, Astor, 2nd Floor
Organizers: Jonathan Schroeder, Christopher Fowler
Chairs: Jonathan Schroeder


Small-area census data are a critical resource for local and neighborhood-level analyses of population and housing, but the basic framework used to produce data for census tracts and smaller geographic units also necessarily complicates their utility. For example:
- The modifiable areal unit problem (MAUP) is especially relevant for small areas, as slight variations in how boundaries are drawn can have a big impact on resulting population statistics.
- Constraints on census sampling methodology—particularly for the American Community Survey—limit the reliability of small-area summary statistics.
- Analysis over time is complicated by boundaries that change with every decennial census.

Even as these issues gain greater recognition, advancements in computing power and data resources (including both public and restricted-access data) are opening up new possibilities for analysis at higher precision using:
- Census block data
- Gridded population data
- Individual-level microdata
- Census data combined with other sources

Papers in this session investigate both the limitations and possibilities associated with using fine-scale census data. The papers may address these issues head-on, or they may encounter these problems in application, employing novel solutions.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Michael Ratcliffe*, U.S. Bureau Of the Census, Stability and Tension in the Census Tract Concept 20 3:20 PM
Presenter Jonathan Schroeder*, University of Minnesota, Estimating 1990 and 2000 Characteristics of 2010 Census Units: The Importance of a Block Basis 20 3:40 PM
Presenter David Folch*, Florida State University, Does One Size Fit All? Defining Neighborhood Size in a World of Diverse Metro Areas 20 4:00 PM
Presenter Christopher Fowler*, Pennsylvania State University, Door-to-door demographics: The similarities and differences among American neighbors. 20 4:20 PM
Presenter Seth Spielman*, University of Colorado, Molly Graber, University of Colorado, A Solution to the MAUP. 20 4:40 PM

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