Using Survey Data for Agent-Based Modeling: Design and Challenges in a Model of Armed Conflict and Population Change

  • Nathalie E. WilliamsEmail author
  • Michelle L. O’Brien
  • Xiaozheng Yao
Part of the The Springer Series on Demographic Methods and Population Analysis book series (PSDE, volume 41)


Although agent-based models (ABMs) have become more commonly found in the demographic literature in the past decade, the use of survey data to populate and operationalize ABMs is still rare in demography. This technique, more commonly found in the geographic and land use literature, creates opportunities to study entirely new questions, but is time-consuming and cumbersome to use. In this chapter, we seek to contribute to the use of survey data based ABMs for demographic purposes. We do this by presenting details of the design, structure, and functioning of an agent-based model we created to examine the influence of armed conflict on population composition and change. In addition to presenting our model design, we also discuss several challenges and solutions to using survey data in the initialization and parameterization of survey-data based ABMs. Finally, we present illustrative examples from our ABM and compare the results with regression-based analyses. It is our aim that this presentation and discussion will expedite the design and testing of ABMs for future projects.


Armed Conflict Marriage Rate Household Asset Behavioral Rule Demographic Behavior 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was supported by generous grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development including a research grant (HD067587) and a research infrastructure grant (R24HD042828) to the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology. We thank Barbara Entwisle, William Axinn, and Dirgha Ghimire for their assistance, the Institute for Social and Environmental Research – Nepal for collecting the survey and violent event record data, Meeta Sainju-Pradhan for collecting the political event data, the South Asia Terrorism Portal and Informal Service Sector for collecting records of violent events, and the CVFS respondents for sharing their lives and experiences. All errors or omissions remain the responsibility of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nathalie E. Williams
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Michelle L. O’Brien
    • 1
    • 3
  • Xiaozheng Yao
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Jackson School of International StudiesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Center for Studies in Demography and EcologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  4. 4.Virginia Tech UniversityBlacksburgUSA

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