Activity patterns, socioeconomic status and urban spatial structure: what can social media data tell us?

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Individual activity patterns are influenced by a wide variety of factors. The more important ones include socioeconomic status (SES) and urban spatial structure. While most previous studies relied heavily on the expensive travel-diary type data, the feasibility of using social media data to support activity pattern analysis has not been evaluated. Despite the various appealing aspects of social media data, including low acquisition cost and relatively wide geographical and international coverage, these data also have many limitations, including the lack of background information of users, such as home locations and SES. A major objective of this study is to explore the extent that Twitter data can be used to support activity pattern analysis. We introduce an approach to determine users’ home and work locations in order to examine the activity patterns of individuals. To infer the SES of individuals, we incorporate the American Community Survey (ACS) data. Using Twitter data for Washington, DC, we analyzed the activity patterns Twitter users with different SESs. The study clearly demonstrates that while SES is highly important, the urban spatial structure, particularly where jobs are mainly found and the geographical layout of the region, plays a critical role in affecting the variation in activity patterns between users from different communities.