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Data Map Shows How Diverse (And Segregated) Our Cities Really Are

A single, color-coded dot for every U.S. resident offers a unique way of looking at America’s complex ethnic tapestry.

Image Copyright, 2013, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (Dustin A. Cable, creator)

Maps are so much more than simple tools to tell us where to go and how to get there. Cartography can peel back the layers of the world around us, showing us new ways to understand the places and people with which we interact on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s light and whimsical, and sometimes it’s serious enough to make us reexamine our lives beyond the borders of the map itself.


Using data from the 2010 census, the University of Virginia’s Wheldon Cooper Center for Public Service has created an extensively detailed map of the United States which shows, on a remarkably granular level, the country’s ethnic and racial diversity. Explains the Cooper Center’s website:

This map is an American snapshot; it provides an accessible visualization of geographic distribution, population density, and racial diversity of the American people in every neighborhood in the entire country. The map displays 308,745,538 dots, one for each person residing in the United States at the location they were counted during the 2010 Census. Each dot is color-coded by the individual's race and ethnicity.

Image Copyright, 2013, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (Dustin A. Cable, creator) // screen capture

Beyond simply offering an astonishingly detailed view of the racial and ethnic makeup of the United States, the Cooper Center’s map can also show just how strikingly segregated our cities can be. The Cooper Center uses the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to explain how metropolises which might appear extensively integrated (as denoted by the color purple at certain map magnifications) are, in fact, much more segregated upon closer inspection.

Image Copyright, 2013, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (Dustin A. Cable, creator)

As the Cooper Center's director of demographics research, Qian Cai recently explained to National Geographic: “There’s a confirmation of segregation that may contribute to racial tensions. After 50 to 60 years [since the Civil Rights Act], some cities are still starkly segregated.”

While it was created in 2013, the map has been enjoying renewed online interest over the past several days.

The full, interactive visualization can be found on the UVA Cooper Center site, along with explanations of its methodology and data usage. Check it out—perhaps you’ll come to see your community in a whole new light.

[via io9]