New approaches to human mobility: using mobile phones for demographic research

Demography. 2013 Jun;50(3):1105-28. doi: 10.1007/s13524-012-0175-z.


This article explores new methods for gathering and analyzing spatially rich demographic data using mobile phones. It describes a pilot study (the Human Mobility Project) in which volunteers around the world were successfully recruited to share GPS and cellular tower information on their trajectories and respond to dynamic, location-based surveys using an open-source Android application. The pilot study illustrates the great potential of mobile phone methodology for moving spatial measures beyond residential census units and investigating a range of important social phenomena, including the heterogeneity of activity spaces, the dynamic nature of spatial segregation, and the contextual dependence of subjective well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cell Phone*
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Demography / methods*
  • Female
  • Geographic Information Systems*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Population Dynamics / trends*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult