Big Data and Big Cities: The Promises and Limitations of Improved Measures of Urban Life
New, “big” data sources allow measurement of city characteristics and outcome variables higher frequencies and finer geographic scales than ever before. However, big data will not solve large urban social science questions on its own. Big data has the most value for the study of cities when it allows measurement of the previously opaque, or when it can be coupled with exogenous shocks to people or place. We describe a number of new urban data sources and illustrate how they can be used to improve the study and function of cities. We first show how Google Street View images can be used to predict income in New York City, suggesting that similar image data can be used to map wealth and poverty in previously unmeasured areas of the developing world. We then discuss how survey techniques can be improved to better measure willingness to pay for urban amenities. Finally, we explain how Internet data is being used to improve the quality of city services.
We would like to acknowledge helpful comments from Andy Caplin, William Kominers, and Mitchell Weiss. E.L.G. acknowledges support from the Taubman Center for State and Local Government; S.D.K. acknowledges support from the National Science Foundation (grants CCF-1216095 and SES-1459912), the Harvard Milton Fund, the Wu Fund for Big Data Analysis, and the Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group (HCEO) sponsored by the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET); and N.N. acknowledges support from The MIT Media Lab consortia. Comments are welcome and may be sent to email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Edward L. Glaeser
I have received speaking fees from organizations that organize members that invest in real estate markets, including the National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers and the Pension Real Estate Association.
Edward L. Glaeser & Scott Duke Kominers & Michael Luca & Nikhil Naik, 2016. "BIG DATA AND BIG CITIES: THE PROMISES AND LIMITATIONS OF IMPROVED MEASURES OF URBAN LIFE," Economic Inquiry, . citation courtesy of