Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Big Data and Big Cities: The Promises and Limitations of Improved Measures of Urban Life

40 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2015  

Edward L. Glaeser

Harvard University - John F. Kennedy School of Government, Department of Economics; Brookings Institution; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Scott Duke Kominers

Harvard University

Michael Luca

Harvard Business School - Negotiations, Organizations & Markets Unit

Nikhil Naik

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 23, 2015

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Glaeser, Edward L. and Kominers, Scott Duke and Luca, Michael and Naik, Nikhil, Big Data and Big Cities: The Promises and Limitations of Improved Measures of Urban Life (November 23, 2015). Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 16-065. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2694723 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2694723

Edward L. Glaeser

Harvard University - John F. Kennedy School of Government, Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Room 315A
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-2150 (Phone)
617-496-1722 (Fax)

Brookings Institution

1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20036-2188
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Scott Duke Kominers

Harvard University ( email )

Rock Center
Harvard Business School
Boston, MA 02163
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.scottkom.com/

Michael Luca (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School - Negotiations, Organizations & Markets Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Boston, MA 02163
United States

HOME PAGE: http://drfd.hbs.edu/fit/public/facultyInfo.do?facInfo=ovr&facId=602417

Nikhil Naik

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Paper statistics

Downloads
408
Rank
54,799
Abstract Views
1,934