I'm trying to learn postgis sql by performing some familiar operations from ArcGIS. Here, I want to perform an area-weighted calculation of certain populations on the intersection of a set of parcels with census blocks.

I have parcels parcels, parcel attributes parcelinfo, census blocks census, and census attributes tgr39035sf1blk.

This calculation would entail

  1. Calculating the area of each census block
  2. Intersecting census blocks and parcels
  3. Calculating the area of each polygon in the intersection of census blocks and parcels
  4. Calculating the area weighted value of each attribute (attribute value * (area of polygon / area of census block)

In order to test ST_Intersection, I tried the following, but phppgadmin craps out (no error message, a proxy error):

SELECT ST_Intersection(p.the_geom, c.the_geom) as inter from parcels p, census c;

I could sum the attributes from each block that intersects with a parcel, but that is, obviously, a seriously flawed approach. E.g.,

SELECT   sum(DISTINCT t.pop2000), sum(DISTINCT t.males)
FROM     parcels p, census c, tgr39035sf1blk t
WHERE ST_Intersects(p.the_geom, c.the_geom) AND c.stfid = t.stfid;

I'm sorry if I'm missing any essential, additional information. I'm a novice at this.

2 Answers 2


It turns out that I needed to add a WHERE ST_Intersects to my ST_Intersection Query, as follows:

SELECT sum(((st_area (st_intersection (p.the_geom,c.the_geom))/st_area(c.the_geom))*ci.pop2000)) AS Parcels_pop
FROM parcel_proj p, census_proj c, tgr39035sf1blk ci
WHERE ST_Intersects(p.the_geom,c.the_geom) and ci.stfid=c.stfid;

This may not matter for others who have more forgiving interfaces, but I was getting a POST / Proxy Error every time I tried st_intersection without testing if st_intersects, presumably because st_intersection needs to be constrained in order to function efficiently.

  • I grappled with the same issue, but makes sense in hindsight: the ST_intersects in the WHERE clause applies the condition; then we need the ST_Intersection in the SELECT to get the actual intersection.
    – perlyking
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 9:46

Are your parcels and census blocks in the same projection? If not you'll need to reproject one of them, or use ST_Transform to reproject one on the fly.

For the second part, especially if you have to reproject, I'd use a subquery. Join your blocks to the attribute data then use that dataset in the main intersection query.

If you want to display this data you can use QGIS and the DB Manager plugin to run the query and display the results.

  • Thanks for the response, heyoverthere. I've already projected them. Is st intersection the right way to go about what you're suggesting?
    – dubhousing
    Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 20:31
  • Yeah, ST_Intersect will get you what you want. Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 21:48
  • Sorry -- I think I'm confused about one piece of this -- is it ST_Intersects (boolean) or ST_Intersection (geometry)? Or does that depend on the implementation I'm using?
    – dubhousing
    Commented Nov 11, 2012 at 5:43
  • ST_Intersects, sorry about the confusion Commented Nov 11, 2012 at 18:11

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