Evaluating Population Forecast Accuracy: A Regression Approach Using County Data

Publication Date: 
Friday, April 1, 2011

Many studies have evaluated the impact of differences in population size and growth rate on population forecast accuracy. Virtually all these studies have been based on aggregate data; that is, they focused on average errors for places with particular size or growth rate characteristics. In this study, we take a different approach by investigating forecast accuracy using regression models based on data for individual places. Using decennial census data from 1900 to 2000 for 2,482 counties in the United States, we construct a large number of county population forecasts and calculate forecast errors for 10- and 20-year horizons. Then, we develop and evaluate several alternative functional forms of regression models relating population size and growth rate to forecast accuracy; investigate the impact of adding several other explanatory variables; and
estimate the relative contributions of each variable to the discriminatory power of the models. Our results confirm several findings reported in previous studies but uncover several new findings as well. We believe regression models based on data for individual places provide powerful but under-utilized tools for investigating the determinants of population forecast accuracy.

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