Reducing Uncertainty in the American Community Survey through Data-Driven Regionalization
MetadataShow full item record
Spielman, Seth; Folch, David
The American Community Survey (ACS) is the largest US survey of households and is the principal source for neighborhood scale information about the US population and economy. The ACS is used to allocate billions in federal spending and is a critical input to social scientific research in the US. However, estimates from the ACS can be highly unreliable. For example, in over 72% of census tracts the estimated number of children under 5 in poverty has a margin of error greater than the estimate. Uncertainty of this magnitude complicates the use of social data in policy making, research, and governance. This article develops a spatial optimization algorithm that is capable of reducing the margins of error in survey data via the creation of new composite geographies, a process called regionalization. Regionalization is a complex combinatorial problem. Here rather than focusing on the technical aspects of regionalization we demonstrate how to use a purpose built open source regionalization algorithm to post-process survey data in order to reduce the margins of error to some user-specified threshold.