BISG Methodology

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I’ve been tooling around with the slightly infamousBISG methodologylately. It’sa simple conceptwhich takes the last name of a person, as well as the zip code of their residence, and imputes the probabilities of that person being of various races and ethnicities using the Bayes updating rule.

The methodology is implemented with the most recent U.S. census data and critically relies on the fact that segregation is widespread in this country, especially among whites andblacks, and that Asian and Hispanic last names are relatively well-defined. It’s not a perfect methodology, of course, and it breaks down in the cases that people marry people of other races, or there are names in common between races, and especially when they live in diverse neighborhoods.

The BISG methodology came up recently in this article(hat tip Don Goldberg) about the man who invented it and the politics surrounding it. Specifically, it…

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