Modifiable Areal Units: Problem or Perception in Modeling of Residential Location Choice?
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The sensitivity of spatial analytic results to the way in which the areal units are defined is known as the modifiable areal unit problem (MAUP). Although to date a general solution to the problem does not yet exist, it has been suggested in the literature that the effects of the problem may be controllable within specific application contexts. The current study pursues this line of inquiry and addresses the MAUP in the context of residential location choice modeling. Previous residential location choice analysis typically involves the representation of alternative locations by areal units and the measurement of residential neighborhood characteristics based on these areal units. This study demonstrates the vulnerability of such an approach to effects of the MAUP. We contend that the fundamental issue is the inconsistency between the analyst's definition of areal units and the decision maker's perception of residential neighborhoods. An alternative approach of using a multi-scale modeling structure is proposed to mimic the notion of a neighborhood being a hierarchy of residential groupings. The proposed approach allows the spatial extent of choice factors to be determined endogenously. We show that the multi-scale approach produces richer and more interpretable results than its single scale counterpart.