Ecometrics in the Age of Big Data: Measuring Urban Social Processes and Inequality

Saturday, 15 February 2014
Regency D (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Robert J. Sampson , Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Daniel O’Brien , Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
The advent of large, administrative data provides a new opportunity for the measurement and longitudinal tracking of neighborhood well-being in cities, but one that will require novel methodologies. The current paper addresses this challenge by developing measures of private neglect and public denigration using over 300,000 requests for city services in Boston.  We also examine structural aspects of urban inequality and social mechanisms such as perceptions of disorder and collective efficacy.  Our measures of physical disorder derived from digital records are valid, can be tracked longitudinally, and are virtually costless, demonstrating how big data can revolutionize ecometric measurement and guide future research and policy on cities.