Quantitative Geography

GGM 201: Research Methods for Dissertations

[Dr. Dani Arribas-Bel]



Source: Oxford English Dictionary


  • “That is, or may be, measured or assessed with respect to or on the basis of quantity; that may be expressed in terms of quantity; quantifiable.”


  • “The field of study concerned with the physical features of the earth and its atmosphere, and with human activity as it affects and is affected by these, including the distribution of populations and resources and political and economic activities; also as a subject of educational study or examination.”


Fotheringham, Brunsdon, and Charlton (2000)

“One or more of the following activities:

  • the analysis of numerical spatial data;
  • the development of spatial theory;
  • and the construction and testing of mathematical models of spatial processes"

Murray (2010)

“The collection of methods that are applied, or could/can be applied, by geographers and others to study spatial phenomena, issues and problems”



  • As practice, origin is very old and hard to date
  • As a movement, 1950s/60s/70s \(\rightarrow\) Quantitative Revolution
    • Adoption of the scientific method in human geography
    • Focus on quantification and measurement
    • Strong association with particular methods: statistics, modeling…
    • Sprung out of a few epicenters (UW’s “space cadets”, Lund’s T. Hagerstrand, also related to Isard’s Regional Science)
  • 1980s/90s \(\rightarrow\) Cultural turn in Human Geography
  • 1990s/00s \(\rightarrow\) Spill over other disciplines (Economics, sociology, public health/policy…)
  • [My view] Nowadays \(\rightarrow\) Back in fashion? Big Data revolution, IoT, computational power…

Quantitative Geography today

Murray (2010)

(Spatial) methods that can be/have been applied to human and physical geography problems and issues. Broad categories:

  • Geographic Information Systems (GISs)
  • Airborne sensing
  • Statistics and exploratory spatial data analysis (ESDA)
  • Mathematics and optimization
  • Regional analysis
  • Computer science and simulation

Geographic Information Systems (GISs)

“Collection of hardware, software, and associated procedures to support spatial data

  • acquisition,
  • management,
  • manipulation,
  • analysis,
  • and display"

Let’s walk through each of them with an example…

GIS example: cycling tracking