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The case for spatially-sensitive data: how data structures affect spatial measurement and substantive theory

Raumsensible Daten: wie Datenstrukturen räumlich-geographisches Messen substantielle Theorie beeinflussen
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Chan-Tack, Anjanette M.

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Abstract Innovations in GIS and spatial statistics offer exciting opportunities to examine novel questions and to revisit established theory. Realizing this promise requires investment in spatially-sensitive data. Though convenient, widely-used administrative datasets are often spatially insensitive. They limit our ability to conceptualize and measure spatial relationships, leading to problems with ecological validity and the MAUP – with profound implications for substantive theory. I dramatize the stakes using the case of supermarket red-lining in 1970 Chicago. I compare the analytical value of a popular, spatially insensitive administrative dataset with that of a custom-built, spatially sensitive alternative. I show how the former constrains analysis to a single count measure and aspatial regression, while the latter’s point data support multiple measures and spatially-sensitive regression procedures; leading to starkly divergent results. In establishing the powerful impact that spatial measures can exert on our theoretical conclusions, I highlight the perils of relying on convenient, but insensitive datasets. Concomitantly, I demonstrate why investing in spatially sensitive data is essential for advancing sound knowledge of a broad array of historical and contemporary spatial phenomena.
Keywords urban research; urban sociology; regional factors; data capture; statistics; research approach; zone; analysis; neighborhood; retail trade
Classification Methods and Techniques of Data Collection and Data Analysis, Statistical Methods, Computer Methods; Economic and Social Geography
Method basic research; development of methods
Free Keywords spatial regression; spatially-sensitive data; spatial measurement; ecological validity; Modifiable Areal Unit Problem (MAUP); retail red-lining; supermarket access; neighborhood effects
Document language English
Publication Year 2014
Page/Pages p. 315-346
Journal Historical Social Research, 39 (2014) 2
Issue topic Spatial analysis
ISSN 0172-6404
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works