Modelling social change in New Zealand: Social Simulation Applied to a Census 'test-bed' (MoSC)




Royal Society of New Zealand’s Marsden Fund


Lyndon Walker, Babak Mahdavi Ardestani, Martin von Randow


This study took the form of two PhD theses.

The first applied computer-based simulation techniques to census data on cohabitation to test a model of New Zealand’s social structure in the rapidly changing demographic and economic conditions of the period 1981–2001. The central research question was whether the social structure – as reflected in the distribution of matching socioeconomic and ethnic choices of cohabitation partner across households – became more highly stratified and segregated over this period. This established the census as a potential ‘test-bed’ for future modelling research, trialled new simulation techniques, addressed some theoretical considerations (choice or constraint in cohabitation?), and tested a hypothesis about New Zealand’s changing social structure.

The other used simulation as a new methodological approach to modelling residential segregation and measuring the variables of interest, validating simulation model-based estimates of patterns over time. The causes, patterns, and consequences of urban residential segregation, by ethnicity and socioeconomic status, are important topics in contemporary urban geography and sociology. Segregation is important because of its potential impacts on issues such as access to education, and healthcare opportunities.