U.S. Commuting Zones (CZs) are an aggregation of county-level data that researchers commonly use to create less arbitrary spatial entities and to reduce spatial autocorrelation. However, by further aggregating data, researchers lose point data and the associated detail. Thus, the choice between using counties or CZs often remains subjective with insufficient empirical evidence guiding researchers in the choice. This article categorizes regional data as entrepreneurial, economic, social, demographic, or industrial and tests for the existence of local spatial autocorrelation in county and CZ data. We find CZs often reduce—but do not eliminate and can even increase—spatial autocorrelation for variables across categories. We then test the potential for regional variation in spatial autocorrelation with a series of maps and find variation based on the variable of interest. We conclude that the use of CZs does not eliminate the need to test for spatial autocorrection, but CZs may be useful for reducing spatial autocorrelation in many cases.
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