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Inferring Twitters’ Socio-demographics to Correct Sampling Bias of Social Media Data for Augmenting Travel Behavior Analysis

Abstract

Many studies demonstrated that social media data, especially Twitter data, have significant potentials to develop models for estimating travel demand, managing operation, and conducting long-term planning purposes. However, it is well known that research with social media data is facing a looming challenge in sampling bias. The Twitter user’s population has huge discrepancies compared with the overall population. Therefore, social media data, when it is directly used for travel behavior analysis, contains biases and errors to some degree. The objective of this study is to correct sampling bias of Twitter data for travel behavior analysis by inferring Twitter users’ socio-demographics. This study first links travelers’ Twitter account with their Facebook account, and verifies their socio-demographics by Facebook data, assuming that one’s Facebook information is real. Second, several models are proposed for predicting socio-demographics, including gender, age, ethnicity, and education levels. Afterward, this paper resamples social media data and compares it to the 2009 California Household Travel Survey data. The resampled data show comparable characteristics to the survey data. This research shed light on tackling sampling bias issues when social media data are incorporated for augmenting travel behavior analysis and urban planning.

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Availability of data, material and code

Some or all data, models, or code generated or used during the study are proprietary or confidential in nature and may only be provided with restrictions (e.g., anonymized data). We can share: 1. Twitter data. 2. Facebook data. 3. Code. Due to privacy concerns, California Household Travel Survey (CHTS) data is confidential. One can request it through National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for permission. Our data and code are available on GitHub (https://github.com/ycui4/Inferring-Twitters-Socio-Demographics-to-Correct-Sampling-Bias-of-Social-Media-Data-for-Augmenting).

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Acknowledgments

This work was partially supported by National Science Foundation award CMMI-1637604 and Tier 1 University Transportation Center Transportation Informatics at University at Buffalo.

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Correspondence to Qing He.

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Cui, Y., He, Q. Inferring Twitters’ Socio-demographics to Correct Sampling Bias of Social Media Data for Augmenting Travel Behavior Analysis. J. Big Data Anal. Transp. 3, 159–174 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42421-021-00037-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s42421-021-00037-0

Keywords

  • Social media data
  • Twitter
  • Socio-demographics
  • Sampling bias correction
  • Travel behavior