Can MAST Really Answer Nearly Every Question?

As we close out 2015, I need to revisit a claim that I made when OneGuyOnTheInternet.com first went live. The site went live on 12-8-2015, and I stated that it “will let the user ask just about any question they can think of and get an accurate answer”. Since that time, I’ve introduced a few concepts that are key to using MAST, and they are necessary background if we are to reach the point where the user can genuinely answer nearly any conceivable question.

These concepts include:

  • dimensionalizing (slicing and dicing) volumes (such as household counts, person counts, expenses, incomes) based on discrete variables (such as geography, age, race, occupation)
  • analyzing households as units, by:
    • performing tabulations at both household and person levels simultaneously
    • carrying all household dimensions to the person level
    • including a weighted household count at the person level
  • allowing a multitude of volumes to be displayed in a single tabulation
  • allowing a multitude of dimensions (not just one, two, or three) to be used in a single tabulation

While these things can be done today on OneGuyOnTheInternet.com simply by putting data items and geographies in a shopping cart, and these things give us an enormous amount of analytical capability with very little effort, they don’t come close to answering every conceivable question. We have to move a bit higher to fulfill the needs of the users while supporting my claim.

There are 3 levels of MAST users. Dropping geographies and data items into a shopping cart is the most elementary level – it’s simple and powerful, but it can’t answer (nearly) everything.

In 2016, we will be moving to the 2nd and 3rd levels, and you will eventually see why I am comfortable making the claim that I make.

Very Brief Taste of the Second Level: Script-Writing

The census bureau includes a data item on the household record called “R65”. It categorizes every household based on the number of people in the household that are 65 or over, and the possible values are: none, 1, or 2+. The census folks work with lots of users, and no doubt they have found that there is a great need to be able to categorize households in this manner. But what if I need to categorize the households based on 3 or more 65 year-olds? Or if I need the cutoff to be 63 years? Or what if I need to categorize the households based on the number of people that are 43-63 years old that worked at least 27 weeks last year and made between $27,000 and $46,000? Obviously we can’t expect the census bureau to anticipate that I would need that categorization and prepare it for me! MAST allows you to create categorizations like that on demand, which is another step towards answering nearly any conceivable question.

Here are the portions of scripts that allow the user to define these kinds of categorizations:

3 or more 65 year olds:

BEGIN ENTITY CLASSIFICATION
   Name=Num65
      BEGIN BUCKET01
         People
         _Agep_v
            65+
      END BUCKET01

      BEGIN RELATIONSHIP

      END RELATIONSHIP

      BEGIN BAND VALUES
         0-2
         3+

      END BAND VALUES
END ENTITY CLASSIFICATION

The above tells MAST to count the ‘People’ (unweighted person count) in each household, but only count the people that are 65 or older according to the Agep_v data item. Add those people up for each household, then categorize each household based on how many it found: 0-2 or 3+.


 

Presence or absence of people that are 43-63 years old that worked at least 27 weeks last year and made between $27,000 and $46,000:

BEGIN ENTITY CLASSIFICATION
   Name=MyCustomCategory
      BEGIN BUCKET01
         People
         _Agep_v
            43-63
         _Wkw,Labs/wkw
            50 to 52 weeks
            48 to 49 weeks

            40 to 47 weeks

            27 to 39 weeks

        _Wagp

            27000-46000

      END BUCKET01

      BEGIN RELATIONSHIP

      END RELATIONSHIP

      BEGIN BAND VALUES
         0-0
         1+

      END BAND VALUES
END ENTITY CLASSIFICATION

 

The above tells MAST to count the ‘People’ (unweighted person count) in each household, but only count the people that are 43-63 according to the Agep_v data item, AND they have to have worked from 27-52 weeks last year AND they have to have wages of $27,000 to $46,000. Add those people up for each household, then categorize each household based on whether there are any or none of them present.


 

In 2016 I intend to produce a series of tutorials and examples that will explain script-writing (this was just a small taste!) and take us much closer to supporting my claim and your needs.

Until then, Happy New Year!

John Grumbine

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