Ecometrics in the Age of Big Data: Measuring and Assessing Neighborhood Characteristics Using Administrative Records

Presenter: Daniel O'Brien

Abstract: The collection of large-scale administrative records in electronic form by many cities provides a new opportunity for the measurement and longitudinal tracking of neighborhood characteristics, but one that will require novel methodologies that convert such data into research-relevant measures. The current paper illustrates these challenges by developing measures of physical disorder from Boston’s “Constituent Relationship Management” (CRM) system. A sixteen-month archive of the CRM database contains more than 300,000 address-based requests for city services, many of which reference physical incivilities (e.g., graffiti removal). The work seeks to solve three challenges presented by the raw database: 1) identifying content pertinent to the measure of interest; 2) assessing the validity of the data using objective audits; and 3) establishing reliability criteria for. This generated a multi-dimensional measure of physical disorder that could be measured repeatedly for virtually no cost every 2-6 months, representing an important new resource in research on urban disorder. The process also generated some additional ecometrics regarding civic engagement and care for the public space. Ways to extend this methodology to new data sets, locales, and research questions are discussed.

Presentation Date: 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014
See also: 2014