University of Connecticut

Events Calendar

Geography colloquium - Seth Spielman

Monday, February 3, 2014
8:00am – 9:00am

Storrs Campus
AUST 434

How Well Do We Understand America’s Neighborhoods?  Reducing Uncertainty in the American Community Survey.

Data about American neighborhoods are critical inputs to both science and policy. For the better part of a century these data have been collected and distributed by the US Census Bureau.  However, a recent change to methodology used by the Census Bureau has dramatically affected the quality of this data making it very imprecise.  For example, the data might indicate that an area has an average income of $50,000, with a margin of error of $55,000, implying that the neighborhood is either terribly poor or comfortable middle class.  In half of all US census tracts the margin of error on poverty estimates is more than 50% of the estimate (e.g. 30% of the population is in poverty +/- 20%) .  The uncertainty in this data is concerning because it is used to allocate an enormous amount of federal spending ($450 billion/year), is widely used by policy makers to allocate resources, and by social-scientists seeking to understand the population and the environment.  This talk describes the patterns of uncertainty in neighborhood level data in the US and illustrates how new forms of spatial “big data” and geocomputation can be used to reengineer census geographies thereby improving the precision of spatial data about neighborhoods.


Ken Foote

Geography Department

Geography Department (primary)

Control Panel