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Geospatial and Population Studies
MSC 06 3510
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001

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Areas of Expertise

Population Estimates & Projections/Demographic Forecasts & Analytics

Population statistics are fundamental building blocks for policy and decision analytics.  The UNM Geospatial and Population Studies unit has a long history of providing such analysis and statistics.  Not only has the unit provided annual population estimates at geographic levels from the state to local neighborhoods (census tracts) within New Mexico, it has also provided customized demographic forecasts and analytics as decision-support tools for a variety of purposes including:

  1. Survey sample design and remediation (adaptive sampling to correct limited sampling bias)
  2. Redesign of zoning laws to promote planning objectives.
  3. Planning for water resource use.
  4. Optimized delivery of resources for public school facility structural renovation and planning.
  5. Planning for incorporation of new municipalities.

GPS is a premier center for research in applied demography, nationally and internationally-recognized for its expertise in small area demographic modeling and demographic analytics.  Consulting clients (under contract as well as pro-bono) include:

  1. US Census Bureau (Population Division)
  2. National Academies of Science’s Committee on National Statistics
  3. State of New Mexico’s Department of Health
  4. State of New Mexico’s Division of Finance Administration
  5. Interstate Streams Commission
  6. New Mexico Public School Facilities Authority (NM-PSFA)
  7. New Mexico Geospatial Advisory Committee. 
  8. Mid-Region Council of Governments (to support traffic planning)

GPS staff have published over 50 peer-reviewed articles, conference papers, and contract-based reports.   For examples of our work, please visit our   Work Examples  and   Data  links from the left-side menu bar.

Geospatial Data Engineering

GPS has managed spatial data resources for over 15 years to support small-area demographic modeling, design of survey sampling frames, and development of the US Census Bureau’s Master Address File to support the 2000 and 2010 Censuses.  In the last seven years, the unit has become a nationally-recognize leader in “geospatial data engineering”—optimizing processes of geospatial data collection, QA/QC, and data updating for these specialized purposes. Project and consulting examples include:

  1. Construction of a statewide, micro-geographic register of housing units (census block level) to support small-area demographic estimates (2003-Present).
  2. Statewide participation in the 2010 Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program (added 130K housing units to the Census Bureau’s Master Address File) (2007-2008).
  3. Utilization of our statewide, microgeographic register of housing units to verify the Bureau’s Master Address File in the 2010 Count Review Program (2010).
  4. Lead Consultants to the US Census Bureau on the Redesign of the 2010 Count Review Program to be address-based, GIS-enabled, and to occur in real-time as the Census itself was occurring. 
  5. Production of state-wide demographic estimates with age/sex/race/Hispanic Origin detail (1990-2013 and ongoing) for the NM Department of Health—disseminated in ESRI shapefiles and Google Earth .kmz files (see datasets link in the left-hand menu bar). 
  6. Participation as a geographic data specialist in the National Academies of Science’s Panel to Review the 2010 Census (see Work Examples link in left-hand menu bar).
  7. Direct advisement of the Geography and 2020 Planning Divisions as well as the Office of the Director of the US Census Bureau on geosptatial updating strategies. 

This long experience in geospatial data formulation has the following specialized skills in algorithm development:

  • Geodatabase development—both general and for specific decision support objectives.
    1. Data ingestion and integration
    2. Customized mapping
    3. ESRI, Google Earth, and Open Source (such as MapWindow) interfaces.
    4. Customized integration of vector, point, and raster data.
  • Optimized geocoding processes
    1. Data ingestion and conflation
    2. Enhanced algorithmic address matching
    3. Applications of Lean Principles, Value-Stream Mapping, and Operations Research methods to development of best practices in geocoding.
  1. QA/QC algorithms:
    1. Identifying duplicate addresses.
    2. Analysis of aerial imagery to produce housing unit counts.
    3. GIS-based scanning algorithms for identifying missing data in microgeographic housing unit databases. 
    4. Decision analytics to apply cost/benefit thinking to optimizing remediation of missing data sources through fieldwork. 

Policy and Decision-Making Support

Applied research differs from other types of research in its link to decision making. Competent decision-making involves identifying options, modeling expected outcomes, quantifying risk, and prioritizing competing goals.  Almost always, decisions involve an assessment of population dynamics. GPS researchers and analysts are well-versed in the customized formulation of demographic and other analytics for purposes of decision-support.  While much of this role has been taken the form of expert advice and consulting, GPS has also built numerous analyses around specific decisions to be made. Some examples include:

  • Decision support for public schools facilities decisions (builds, updating, prioritization)
  • Demographic analytics/forecasts to support traffic planning
  • Bill analysis (at request of legislative counsel services or specific legislators)
  • Demographic modeling to support municipal incorporation decisions
  • Adaptive sampling to support survey-based research with strong risk for limited sampling bias.
  • Customized demographic projections to support zoning decisions
  • Customized group presentations that speak to industry-specific decision-making (Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors, Leadership New Mexico, FOR-UNM, etc.)

In this area, GPS analysts have linked informal decision support with appropriate data and analytics.  Current efforts include the construction of an enterprise dataset capable of providing rapid turn-around decision support analytics to legislators and other public decision-makers.

Traffic Safety Research

The   Traffic Research Unit  (TRU) is part of Geospatial and Population Studies (GPS) at the University of New Mexico. We are formerly known as the UNM Division of Government Research (DGR). We are within the umbrella group of UNM's Institute for Applied Research Services (IARS), which also includes the Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER).

TRU specializes in providing advanced SAS programming expertise, statistical data analysis, data integration, trend analysis, data cleansing and matching, and geospatial analysis. We have done work related to traffic safety, as well as health care, economics, public policy, public safety, and other social research issues.

For the past 30 years, TRU has specialized in traffic safety. We maintain New Mexico's traffic crash and DWI databases for the   New Mexico Department of Transportation - Traffic Safety Division   (TSD). Much of our website is dedicated to providing the government and public with traffic crash information.

As part of the University of New Mexico, TRU offers UNM students real-world employment experience for their educational and professional development.


Originally known as the Division of Government Research (DGR), TRU was established by the University of New Mexico's Political Science Department in 1946. We conducted research related to governmental issues particular to New Mexico.

In 1975, DGR began doing traffic crash data analysis, SAS programming, and geospatial analysis for the   New Mexico DOT - Traffic Safety Division   (TSD). We also became part of UNM's Institute for Applied Research Services (IARS). Our main focus became conducting contract and grant-funded applied research projects.

DGR began publishing the Annual Report on New Mexico Traffic Crash Data in 1981. Starting in 1984, a specialized report on New Mexico DWI (driving while intoxicated) data was also published each year.

In 1981, DGR began developing the New Mexico Geographic Road Network Database (GRNDB), a transportation-oriented GIS capable of displaying traffic crash data on maps. In 1984, we were one of the first 100 users of   ESRI   GIS software. Our ESRI GIS experience ranges from ESRI's first software product, ARC/INFO, through the most recent versions of ESRI's ArcGIS products. In 2002, DGR won the GIS poster contest for best analytical content at the ESRI Southwest User Group Conference (SWUG) held in Taos, New Mexico (available upon request).

In 2012, the Division of Government Research was formally renamed the Traffic Research Unit (TRU) after merging with UNM Geospatial and Population Studies (GPS).  The TRU is well-versed in the following areas:

1. Statistical data analysis, data integration, and data ETL (extraction, transformation and loading) using SAS

2. Combining GIS (Geographic Information Systems) with SAS programming to analyze data and create maps for spatial analysis of data

3. Improve data quality with the ability to profile, cleanse, and match data during the ETL process