Socio economic data deals with humans, their activities, the room and formation required to carry out those activities. Socio economic data or census data enables mapping in GIS.

Fig 1 below shows the types of socio economic data:


Fig. 1: Socio Economic Data


Socio economic data comprises of the following:

  • Vital Data (Demographics): this includes births, deaths and illnesses
  • Clinical Data: this includes labs, in/out patients, radiology
  • Geographical Data: service areas, health areas, streets, jurisdictions
  • Financial Data: charges, revenues, expenses
  • Facilities Data: floor plans, assets, resources
  • Client Data: demographics, clinical results, services
  • Environmental Data: air and water, biological hazards, toxic sites, infectious diseases
  • Market Data: age, gender, education, income
  • Demand Data: procedures, caseloads, diseases
  • Provider Data: locations, hospitals, physicians
  • Employer Data: employee locations, health plans, diseases

The socio economic data represented in GIS is an essential tool for governments to base their decisions. These include major decisions that involve a whole country or state, therefore the data has to be accurate as possible. The amount of births, deaths, diseases, variation in diseases, incomes, expenses, available resources, assets, clinical results of diseases, toxic sites that may cause diseases and deaths, incomes, education levels, locations of hospitals and important services areas depending on the age and gender, all help in making important decisions to run a state or country.

Types of Socio Economic Data

There are three types of socio economic data:

  1. Aggregate: Observations based on a specified group structure. E.g. Geographical data based on traffic zones, or number of people migrating in a time span of 3 years etc.
  2. Disaggregate: Individual data or single entities. E.g. income, gender, education or gross sales for retail store.
  3. Cross sectional/Longitudinal Data: Data collected from various areas regarding one time span, e.g. number of migrants from 2000-2001image2

Fig 2: Types of Socio Economic Data

Sources of Socio Economic Data


Fig. 3: Sources of Socio Economic Data

Socio economic data can be collected from various sources, such as:

  1. Census data based on population, economy, agriculture, labor, land, transportation and infrastructure, and administrative records

This involves sending out questionnaires to each house in a certain area, inquiring about the number of dependents, the available resources, the cost of labor, unemployment, inflation, transportation. This involves printing costs.

  1. Field surveys

This involves carrying out outdoor surveys, usually via door-to-door marketing, inquiring about demographics, population etc. This involves time consumption.

  1. Government statistics

This involves gathering data from existing government data, such as tax records. This data is often confidential and can be used by the government agents or specific researchers.

  1. Secondary data collected by a third party

This includes gathering data from other agencies.

  1. Private sector companies

Retailers and direct mail companies often provide socio economic data of their vast clientage. This helps cover up a large area in a short and cost effective period.

How GIS Helps

GIS helps in gathering accurate socio economic data, cost effectively and in a timely manner. The digitizing process of data in GIS gathers images from layers of data that is collected via surveys, existing records or private sector companies. Since these companies represent a very high percentage of clientele that covers a certain demographic area. This data is then transformed digitally to a map image. On this map image, the user can plot coordinates based on the various methods of data collection mentioned above, about age, gender, occupation, literacy rate, dependency ratio etc. This data then helps government sample and assist in the decision making process, such as employment, taxes, facilities, aids, incomes etc.


The collection of socio economic data is crucial to be accurate for long-term plans of countries or states. Therefore, GIS is the most commonly used and reliable means of collecting the data to produce accurate reports in a cost effective and timely manner.