Department of Computational Social Science Seminar Abstract

Friday, March 30 - 3:00 p.m.
Center for Social Complexity Suite
Third Floor, Research Hall

U.S. Census Bureau International Population Mapping

Joshua Comenetz, Ph.D.
Chief, Geographic Studies Branch
Population Division
U.S. Census Bureau

Abstract: Timely provision of maps tied to demographic information is critical for improving the efficiency of humanitarian relief efforts during and after natural disasters and other crises. Gathering information after an event is time-consuming, but a global database of maps linked to sub-national population data is not currently available. The Census Bureau is building websites to supply the needed resources.

The Populations at Risk initiative consists of three components: assembly of a global archive of digital maps containing sub-national administrative boundaries, expansion of the Census Bureau’s database of sub-national demographic data, and development of methods that combine census data and satellite imagery to produce high-resolution population maps. These methods result in 100-meter gridded population maps covering entire countries. Data for the first two countries, Haiti and Pakistan, are available online.

The January 2010 earthquake in Haiti presented a challenge for the Census Bureau’s timing of internet releases. The Haiti website was under construction, with a planned public opening in fall 2010. In the event, the site was made available within 24 hours after the earthquake. The site contains a data viewer (no GIS required) along with downloadable files for spatial analysis. The viewer includes tools that produce population estimates for user-defined polygons and hurricane tracks (buffered areas around a line). The demand for this service has been demonstrated by site traffic and positive response from a variety of users. The Pakistan website was released during the summer 2010 flooding and incorporates additional tools in response to user requests.