Understanding neighborhood isolation through spatial interaction network analysis using location big data

Research article published at the journal of Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space on December 1, 2019

Timothy Prestby, Joseph App, Yuhao Kang, Song Gao. (2019) Understanding Neighborhood Isolation through Spatial Interaction Network Analysis using Location Big Data. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space. DOI: 10.1177/0308518X19891911

Download link: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0308518X19891911


Hidden biases of racial and socioeconomic preferences shape residential neighborhoods throughout the USA. Thereby, these preferences shape neighborhoods composed predominantly of a particular race or income class. However, the assessment of spatial extent and the degree of isolation outside the residential neighborhoods at large scale is challenging, which requires further investigation to understand and identify the magnitude and underlying geospatial processes. With the ubiquitous availability of location-based services, large-scale individual-level location data have been widely collected using numerous mobile phone applications and enable the study of neighborhood isolation at large scale. In this research, we analyze large-scale anonymized smartphone users’ mobility data in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to understand neighborhood-to-neighborhood spatial interaction patterns of different racial classes. Several isolated neighborhoods are successfully identified through the mobility-based spatial interaction network analysis.

Keywords: Neighborhood isolation, human mobility, big data, spatial interaction

a dark background version of the neighborhood isolation map without a cartogram in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Spatial interactions between Milwaukee communities and their demographic composition. The brighter flows are places where more flows are overlapping/converging together.
The community flows are overlaid on top of a cartogram distorted by the percent of the non-white population of the census block groups to promote a more socially just map.


The authors would like to thank Safegraph, Inc., for providing the anonymous mobile phone location big data support. T.P. and S.G. thank the UW-Madison Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty Research Fellowship for their support for this research.