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Factorial ecology uses factor analysis to analyze social aspects of spatial units that are of theoretical importance to urban ecologists. Factor analysis is a statistical technique that assesses a large number of variables to find a few common underlying dimensions (factors). In the 1960s, with new computing technology and the dissemination of computerized census data, urban ecologists found this technique uniquely suited for statistical assessment of intra- and interurban spatial differentiation. Generally, any research of the 1960s through 1980s that applies factor analysis to the study of sociospatial units is termed factorial ecology.

Beginning with F. L. Sweetser in 1965, early factorial ecology tested theoretical propositions about natural areas of the city. A decade earlier, social area analysis hypothesized that the formation of neighborhood social homogeneity, ...

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