An evaluation of geo-located Twitter data for measuring human migration

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This study evaluates the spatial patterns of flows generated from geo-located Twitter data to measure human migration. Using geo-located tweets continuously collected in the U.S. from 2013 to 2015, we identified Twitter users who migrated per changes in county-of-residence every two years and compared the Twitter-estimated county-to-county migration flows with the ones from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). To evaluate the spatial patterns of Twitter migration flows when representing the IRS counterparts, we developed a normalized difference representation index to visualize and identify those counties of over-/under-representations in the Twitter estimates. Further, we applied a multidimensional spatial scan statistic approach based on a Poisson process model to detect pairs of origin and destination regions where the over-/under-representativeness occurred. The results suggest that Twitter migration flows tend to under-represent the IRS estimates in regions with a large population and over-represent them in metropolitan regions adjacent to tourist attractions. This study demonstrated that geo-located Twitter data could be a sound statistical proxy for measuring human migration. Given that the spatial patterns of Twitter-estimated migration flows vary significantly across the geographic space, related studies will benefit from our approach by identifying those regions where data calibration is necessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1830-1852
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Geographical Information Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Information Systems
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Library and Information Sciences


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