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Breaking the boundaries: geographical approaches to integrating 200 years of the census

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The census and similar sources of data have been published for two centuries so the information that they contain should provide an unparalleled insight into the changing population of Britain over this time period. To date, however, the seemingly trivial problem of changes in boundaries has seriously hampered the use of these sources as they make it impossible to create long run time series of spatially detailed data. The paper reviews methodologies that attempt to resolve this problem by using geographical information systems and areal inter-polation to allow the reallocation of data from one set of administrative units onto another. This makes it possible to examine change over time for a standard geography and thus it becomes possible to unlock the spatial detail and the temporal depth that are held in the census and in related sources.

Keywords: Areal interpolation; Boundary changes; Census; Error; Geographical information systems; Long-term change; Spatial analysis

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Queen's University of Belfast, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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