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Geographically referenced US census data provide a large amount of information about the extent of urbanization and land consumption. Population count, the number of housing units and their vacancy rates, and demographic and economic parameters such as racial composition and household income, and their change over time, can be examined at different levels of geographic resolution to observe patterns of urban flight, suburbanization, reurbanization, and sprawl. This paper will review the literature on prior application of census data in a geospatial setting. It will identify strengths and weaknesses and address methodological challenges of census-based approaches to the study of urbanization. To this end, a detailed overview of the geographic structure of U.S. Census data and its evolution is provided. Ecological Fallacies and the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem (MAUP) are discussed and the Population Weighted Density as a more robust alternative to crude population density is introduced. Of special interest will be literature comparing and/or integrating census data with alternative methodologies, e.g. based on Remote Sensing. The general purpose of this paper is to lay the groundwork for the optimal use of high resolution census data in studying urbanization in the United States.
Sprawl, Urban sprawl, City, Population Density, Population Weighted Density, Census, US Census, Census Geographies, Urbanization, Suburbanization, Urban flight, Reurbanization, Land Consumption, Land Use, Land Use Efficiency, LULC, Remote Sensing, Geospatial Analysis, GIS, Growth, Urban Growth, Spatial Distribution of Population, City Limits, Urban Extent, Built Environment, Urban Form, Areal Interpolation, Scale, Spatial Scale, Longitudinal Study, Dasymmetric Mapping, Ecological Fallacy, MAUP, Modifiable Areal Unit Problem, Metrics