The modifiable areal unit problem (MAUP) and health disparities

Date of Completion

January 2009


Geography|Health Sciences, Public Health




The modifiable areal unit problem (MAUP) is the idea that the interpretation of a geographical phenomenon within analysis depends on the scale and partitioning of the areal units that are imposed on the analysis. The problem is inherently linked to minority health disparities as differences in health outcomes by race or ethnicity are often reported using these areal units, which may lead to inaccurate statistical measures and spatial patterns of disparities. The purpose of this research was to investigate the MAUP and its potential impact on the interpretation of minority health disparities. Several models were developed to determine if the MAUP influenced the interpretation of minority health disparities in Connecticut, and how the effects were manifested statistically and spatially. The models highlighted that the MAUP was an important problem to be accounted for when investigating minority health disparities. The research also showed that preferred mortality area designs could be used to model minority health disparities more consistently across scales, especially when compared to actual district designs. By doing so, this research simultaneously contributes to geographic and public health studies. This research adds to the discipline of geography by outlining innovative models to examine the MAUP. Through these models, it is shown that minority health disparity studies need to take into account the confounding effects of the MAUP. ^