1991 volume 23(7) pages 1025 – 1044
doi:10.1068/a231025

Cite as:
Fotheringham A S, Wong D W S, 1991, "The modifiable areal unit problem in multivariate statistical analysis" Environment and Planning A 23(7) 1025 – 1044

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The modifiable areal unit problem in multivariate statistical analysis

A S Fotheringham, D W S Wong

Received 11 June 1990

Abstract. In this paper the examination of the modifiable areal unit problem is extended into multivariate statistical analysis. In an investigation of the parameter estimates from a multiple linear regression model and a multiple logit regression model, conclusions are drawn about the sensitivity of such estimates to variations in scale and zoning systems. The modifiable areal unit problem is shown to be essentially unpredictable in its intensity and effects in multivariate statistical analysis and is therefore a much greater problem than in univariate or bivariate analysis. The results of this analysis are rather depressing in that they provide strong evidence of the unreliability of any multivariate analysis undertaken with data from areal units. Given that such analyses can only be expected to increase with the imminent availability of new census data both in the United Kingdom and in the USA, and the current proliferation of GIS (geographical information system) technology which permits even more access to aggregated data, this paper serves as a topical warning.

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