Antonio Higueras-Arnal


Microscale population study: Methodological problems

Antonio Higueras-Arnal

Geographia Polonica (1993) vol. 61, pp. 65-72 | Full text

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The notions of space and scale are basic in any geographical study. Thenature of the geographical space changes when the scale changes. The street, theneighbourhood, the city and the metropolitan area all belong to the same geographicalcontext, but they differ in nature and physiognomy, structure and functionality.When we speak of a microscale study of the population, this must be defined verycarefully. The simplest elements in a demographic analysis are the individual andthe family, but it is doubtful whether this class of elements is of itself the object ofstudy of Population Geography, unless they are substantially integrated into specificgeographical spaces. That is, the microscale in a population study must refer only tospace and not to people or social groups per se, which can be the object of study insociology, rather than geography. The microspace is an existential, living space,which is perceived and internalized by the population which adopts it as its own.This is easy to say but difficult to explain. Each culture, each people, each social classand even each profession views the space in which it lives in different ways. The homehas a very different meaning in Central Europe from that in the Mediterraneancountries; likewise, the street and the square do not mean the same to Mediterraneanpeoples as they do to Central Europeans. Thus, simple statistical methods are ofteninsufficient for analyzing the population on a microscale. In contrast, methods whichexplain the attitudes and behaviour of the population are very useful.The above reflections follow from a complex study begun some years ago in Zaragoza.It is a study of Human Ecology in which principal component analysis techniques areused, together with factorial and cluster analysis. Different scales were involved:homes, city sections and districts.

Keywords: population geography, micro-scale, Zaragoza

Antonio Higueras-Arnal, Departament of Geography, University of Zaragoza, Spain