Accuracy and Repeatability of Commercial Geocoding

Am J Epidemiol. 2004 Nov 15;160(10):1023-9. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwh310.


The authors estimated accuracy and repeatability of commercial geocoding to guide vendor selection in the Life Course Socioeconomic Status, Social Context and Cardiovascular Disease study (2001-2002). They submitted 1,032 participant addresses (97% in Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, or North Carolina) to vendor A twice over 9 months and measured repeatability as agreement between levels of address matching, discordance (%) between statistical tabulation areas, and median distance (d, in meters) and bearing (theta;, in degrees) between coordinates assigned on each occasion (H(o):Sigma(i)( = 1 -->) (n) [theta;(i) /n] = 180 degrees ). They also submitted 75 addresses of nearby air pollution monitors (77% urban/suburban; 69% residential/commercial) to vendors A and B and then measured accuracy by comparing vendor- and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-assigned geocodes using the above measures. Repeatability of geocodes assigned by vendor A was high (kappa = 0.90; census block group discordance = 5%; d < 1 m; theta; = 177 degrees ). The match rate for EPA monitor addresses was higher for vendor B versus A (88% vs. 76%), but discordance at census block group, tract, and county levels also was, respectively, 1.4-, 1.9-, and 5.0-fold higher for vendor B. Moreover, coordinates assigned by vendor B were further from those assigned by the EPA (d = 212 m vs. 149 m; theta; = 131 degrees vs. 171 degrees ). These findings suggest that match rates, repeatability, and accuracy should be used to guide vendor selection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Air Pollutants / supply & distribution*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Environmental Monitoring / statistics & numerical data
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Social Class
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency


  • Air Pollutants