Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


GIS Analysis of the Spatial Structure of U.S. Metropolitan Areas: A Case Study of Detroit


Geography & Planning Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Social and Behavioral Sciences


The purpose of this research is to explore the extent to which GIS analysis can help us understand the spatial structure of US metropolitan areas. Using Detroit as a case study, the research is conducted in four major steps. First, we identify the major factors that have impacted the urban form and spatial structure of Detroit, including the geographic concentration of US automobile industry, the influx of large numbers of European immigrants and black population, racial segregation, and suburbanization. Second, we construct time series of key variables using US decennial censuses, Economic Census, County Business Patterns, National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS) and other databases. Third, we utilize several GIS procedures to analyze 1) how the major factors identified in step 1 affect the geographic expansion and internal structure of Detroit and 2) whether and to what extent these major factors are spatially related. Finally, we present our main findings and discuss the potential and limitations of GIS in urban analysis.

Conference Name

Annual meeting of Association of American Geographers

Conference Location

Tampa, FL

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