Incorporating GIS and Remote Sensing for Census Population Disaggregation




Wu, Shuo-sheng 'Derek'

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Census data are the primary source of demographic data for a variety of researches and applications. For confidentiality issues and administrative purposes, census data are usually released to the public by aggregated areal units. In the United States, the smallest census unit is census blocks. Due to data aggregation, users of census data may have problems in visualizing population distribution within census blocks and estimating population counts for areas not coinciding with census block boundaries. The main purpose of this study is to develop methodology for estimating sub-block areal populations and assessing the estimation errors. The City of Austin, Texas was used as a case study area. Based on tax parcel boundaries and parcel attributes derived from ancillary GIS and remote sensing data, detailed urban land use classes were first classified using a per-field approach. After that, statistical models by land use classes were built to infer population density from other predictor variables, including four census demographic statistics (the Hispanic percentage, the married percentage, the unemployment rate, and per capita income) and three physical variables derived from remote sensing images and building footprints vector data (a landscape heterogeneity statistics, a building pattern statistics, and a building volume statistics). In addition to statistical models, deterministic models were proposed to directly infer populations from building volumes and three housing statistics, including the average space per housing unit, the housing unit occupancy rate, and the average household size. After population models were derived or proposed, how well the models predict populations for another set of sample blocks was assessed. The results show that deterministic models were more accurate than statistical models. Further, by simulating the base unit for modeling from aggregating blocks, I assessed how well the deterministic models estimate sub-unit-level populations. I also assessed the aggregation effects and the rescaling effects on sub-unit estimates. Lastly, from another set of mixed-land-use sample blocks, a mixed-land-use model was derived and compared with a residential-land-use model. The results of per field land use classification are satisfactory with a Kappa accuracy statistics of 0.747. Model Assessments by land use show that population estimates for multi-family land use areas have higher errors than those for single-family land use areas, and population estimates for mixed land use areas have higher errors than those for residential land use areas. The assessments of sub-unit estimates using a simulation approach indicate that smaller areas show higher estimation errors, estimation errors do not relate to the base unit size, and rescaling improves all levels of sub-unit estimates.



geographic information systems, remote sensing, population research, demographic surveys


Wu, S.S. (2006). Incorporating GIS and remote sensing for census population disaggregation (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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