On Monday, July 1st, the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation hosted Dr. Charlotta Mellander, a Professor of Economics at Jönköping University and longtime collaborator of Richard Florida, for a seminar on Swedish Microdata. Statistics Sweden currently holds among the finest level of microdata available, covering all Swedish residents and establishments from 1990 to 2016. The foundations of Swedish data stem from a need to match the economy and geography over time, making the geo-coded data ideal for regional/spatial analysis research projects.

“Dr. Mellander is one of the leading researchers in economic geography comparing data from different countries, particularly Swedish microdata. If you want data about people that you can follow longitudinally over time and place, to study neighborhood effects or human development, then Swedish data is one of the holy grails,” said Luís Bettencourt, Inaugural Director of the Mansueto Institute.

Marynia Kolak, Assistant Director for Health and Informatics at the Center for Spatial Data Science, was among the faculty and students attending the lunch colloquium. Kolak’s research centers on how place impacts health outcomes for different people, focusing on topics such as air quality and accessibility to opioid risk environments. Early in her career, Kolak began noticing an issue with data collection, specifically the difficulty in quantifying data when humans were involved. For her, the benefits of using such fine-scale data are evident through her experience with the lack of similar U.S. datasets.

“American data has limits to following people over time; the most similar collection to this is done using cell phone information, but even then, it’s mostly guesswork,” says Kolak.

She adds that Sweden’s register-based data collection could pick up on this gap and serve as a detailed resource for research and policy.

With such a vast amount of information, it becomes difficult to come up with interesting questions that apply to the data, rather than the other way around. Acknowledging the possibilities, Mellander encouraged researchers to contact her with collaborative projects in which the data could be utilized.