The long distance runner: Lonely, no more?

Recently, Hamilton shared a great post about American ancestry. The first sentence of his post– “This is one of my favorite demographic maps.”— made me wonder: Have I ever said those words? Do I have a favorite demographic map?

There are plenty of maps that I appreciate for what they reveal, such as one from this past summer painting a stark picture of US income mobility. Some maps are more for fun: though I wish I had a better handle on the source, I definitely got a kick out of the map revealing the concentration of red-heads in Europe that made the rounds last year. And, of course, the Racial Dot Map was pretty great for both substance and style (though I personally think that the Congressional Dot Map was even more interesting).

This week, though, I happened across a great new map that I appreciate not only for its visual appeal and powerful presentation of data, but also because it provides great information on a topic I care a lot about: running.

US

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Official Poverty Estimates, in the US and the Commonwealth

This past weekend, The New York Times published an interactive map visualizing recently released Census data on poverty in America.  The NYT map gives information down to the census tract level; this level of precision allows the viewer to see poverty rates of not just counties and cities but, in fact, neighborhoods.

As for Virginia, poverty rates in Southwest, Southside and Hampton Roads far exceed the poverty rates of localities closer to DC.  According to these small area estimates, Falls Church County has the lowest poverty rate of around 3 percent, while Radford City and Harrisonburg City have the highest rates (34.2 and 37.5 percent, respectively).

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A map that shows what’s wrong with Washington

2008 Election Dot Map, NortheastThe recent government shutdown and flirtation with default has seriously deteriorated public trust in Congress, and in Washington more generally.  Disgust with Washington is often followed by bewilderment. How did things get this way?

While there is no single answer to this question, if I had to choose one, it would be current redistricting practices. There is a strong case to be made that political polarization (and associated intransigence and brinkmanship) are rooted in gerrymandered congressional districts.

Gerrymandering, the art and science of lawmakers choosing their own voters rather than the other way around, has ensured that most representatives in the U.S. House are safe from general election challenges.  Without those challenges, positions taken by elected officials are not exposed to debate and to the typically moderating effect of contested elections.  In contrast, in gerrymandered districts where it is clear that one party or the other has a more or less certain general election victory in hand, candidates from the opposing party opt out of running (or have little real chance of winning if they do). As a result, the only threats to these lawmakers come in contentious primary contests from the hard left and hard right.  Being “primaried” is now a common term among political strategists, and is often used to describe well-financed tea party challengers who unseat moderate Republicans. As moderation, from either side, is lost in primary challenges, the result is more rigidly ideological victors and the deadlock we see with increasing frequency in Congress.

This connection between redistricting, polarization, and legislative dysfunction is complicated, and as soon as political scientists start talking about the nuances of this subject the message sometimes gets lost.  So I decided to create a visual to help illuminate what is really going on…

Link to the full interactive Congressional Dot Map.

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More Dot Density Maps

By popular demand, I’m attaching dot density maps for more Virginia cities plus a new statewide map…enjoy:

Plus the ones from the previous post:

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One dot, one person: population density maps for Virginia cities

For the new, interactive, Racial Dot Map project visit HERE.

Our recent post on dot density mapping of U.S., Canadian, and Mexico census data by MIT’s Media Lab got a lot of attention…so we decided to give it a try ourselves, taking a deeper look into census data for Virginia’s major urban centers and smaller cities. All of the dots on the following maps represent one person, as enumerated by the 2010 Census, with a little bit of a twist.  Rather than giving everyone a black dot, as MIT’s Media Lab did, we added another layer of data by assigning color dots based on race and ethnicity.  The results are quite illuminating…

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New redistricting move proposes big changes to Virginia Senate districts

On Monday, the Virginia Senate narrowly passed (20-19) a new redistricting bill that will dramatically change the boundaries of the current Senate districts drawn just two years ago.  The plan, passed by Senate Republicans on a party-line vote when a Democratic Senator was away on Inauguration Day, has been criticized by Democrats as an overt attempt to give Republicans an advantage in future elections by “packing” and “cracking” black communities in Virginia in order to dilute their voting power.  Republican Sen. John Watkins, the legislator who sponsored the redistricting amendments, instead says the new plan would defuse possible Voting Rights Act legal challenges by creating a new minority-majority district and also cited improvements in district compactness.

The move by Senate Republicans is unusual, as such massive changes to a district map are typically reserved for redistricting sessions right after the decennial census.  As a result, this recent redistricting drama has garnered much national attention this week and was a top-ten story on Politico.com Wednesday.

The Virginia Public Access Project has made the proposed HB259 plan available for viewing on their interactive maps:

Virginia Map of Senate Redistricting Plan HB259

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Lower turnout in 2012 makes the case for political realignment in 2008

Now that most states have finalized and submitted their official election results (yes, it does take that long), we can take a closer look into state and local turnout rates for the 2012 presidential election.

But first, an overview of the results…

As we all know, Barack Obama will be starting his second term after he is inaugurated in a couple of days.  While it would probably be hasty to say that Obama received a huge “mandate” from the election back in November, it’s fair to say he defeated Mitt Romney handily, with room to lose battleground states and still win.  In fact, one of the more surprising results from the presidential election is how little the electoral map changed from 2008.  The county-level results for 2012 and 2008 below illustrates this point:

GIF Animation of Nation Election Outcomes 2008, 2012

Obama’s margins over his Republican challenger shrunk in most battleground states and was enough to flip Indiana and North Carolina, the only two states to switch between 2008 and 2012.  But despite the slow and tenuous economic recovery, high unemployment, a controversial health reform law, and a slew of other things Obama had going against him during the campaign, nothing much changed.  This was also despite lower turnout rates across the country.

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Innovative Data Use and Social Problem Solving

As a data consumer and user, I am constantly amazed at the pure volume of data currently available, as well as the many analytical tools that enable us to better understand this data and the technology that makes it all readily accessible and shareable. Data can be just numbers on a page, buried in a dry table in the back of some compendium of facts and figures, but when given the appropriate context and made relevant to users it helps us better understand the world around us.

The Justice Mapping Center identifies 3 districts home to half of men who return to New York City from prison.

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