, Volume 80, Issue 4, pp 587–605 | Cite as

Assessing the impact of demographic characteristics on spatial error in volunteered geographic information features

  • William F. Mullen
  • Steven P. Jackson
  • Arie Croitoru
  • Andrew Crooks
  • Anthony Stefanidis
  • Peggy Agouris


The proliferation of volunteered geographic information (VGI), such as OpenStreetMap (OSM) enabled by technological advancements, has led to large volumes of user-generated geographical content. While this data is becoming widely used, the understanding of the quality characteristics of such data is still largely unexplored. An open research question is the relationship between demographic indicators and VGI quality. While earlier studies have suggested a potential relationship between VGI quality and population density or socio-economic characteristics of an area, such relationships have not been rigorously explored, and mainly remained qualitative in nature. This paper addresses this gap by quantifying the relationship between demographic properties of a given area and the quality of VGI contributions. We study specifically the demographic characteristics of the mapped area and its relation to two dimensions of spatial data quality, namely positional accuracy and completeness of the corresponding VGI contributions with respect to OSM using the Denver (Colorado, US) area as a case study. We use non-spatial and spatial analysis techniques to identify potential associations among demographics data and the distribution of positional and completeness errors found within VGI data. Generally, the results of our study show a lack of statistically significant support for the assumption that demographic properties affect the positional accuracy or completeness of VGI. While this research is focused on a specific area, our results showcase the complex nature of the relationship between VGI quality and demographics, and highlights the need for a better understanding of it. By doing so, we add to the debate of how demographics impact on the quality of VGI data and lays the foundation to further work.


Volunteered geographic information OpenStreetMap Spatial analysis Spatial data quality Demographics 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • William F. Mullen
    • 1
  • Steven P. Jackson
    • 1
  • Arie Croitoru
    • 1
  • Andrew Crooks
    • 2
  • Anthony Stefanidis
    • 1
  • Peggy Agouris
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geography and GeoInformation ScienceGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  2. 2.Department of Computational Social Science, Krasnow Institute for Advanced StudyGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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