Mapping zero density…. This is pretty coooool.
Nobody lives here: The nearly 5 million Census Blocks with zero population
A Block is the smallest area unit used by the U.S. Census Bureau for tabulating statistics. As of the 2010 census, the United States consists of 11,078,300 Census Blocks. Of them, 4,871,270 blocks totaling 4.61 million square kilometers were reported to have no population living inside them. Despite having a population of more than 310 million people, 47 percent of the USA remains unoccupied.
Green shading indicates unoccupied Census Blocks. A single inhabitant is enough to omit a block from shading
Quick update: If you’re the kind of map lover who cares about cartographic accuracy, check out the new version which fixes the Gulf of California. If you save this map for your own projects, please use this one instead.
The map tends to highlight two types of areas:
- places where human habitation is physically restrictive or impossible, and
- places where human habitation is prohibited by social or legal convention.
Water features such lakes, rivers, swamps and floodplains are revealed as places where it is hard for people to live. In addition, the mountains and deserts of the West, with their hostility to human survival, remain largely void of permanent population.
Of the places where settlement is prohibited, the most apparent are wilderness protection and recreational areas (such as national and state parks) and military bases. At the national and regional scales, these places appear as large green tracts surrounded by otherwise populated countryside.
At the local level, city and county parks emerge in contrast to their developed urban and suburban surroundings. At this scale, even major roads such as highways and interstates stretch like ribbons across the landscape.
Commercial and industrial areas are also likely to be green on this map. The local shopping mall, an office park, a warehouse district or a factory may have their own Census Blocks. But if people don’t live there, they will be considered “uninhabited”. So it should be noted that just because a block is unoccupied, that does not mean it is undeveloped.
Perhaps the two most notable anomalies on the map occur in Maine and the Dakotas. Northern Maine is conspicuously uninhabited. Despite being one of the earliest regions in North America to be settled by Europeans, the population there remains so low that large portions of the state’s interior have yet to be politically organized.
In the Dakotas, the border between North and South appears to be unexpectedly stark. Geographic phenomena typically do not respect artificial human boundaries. Throughout the rest of the map, state lines are often difficult to distinguish. But in the Dakotas, northern South Dakota is quite distinct from southern North Dakota. This is especially surprising considering that the county-level population density on both sides of the border is about the same at less than 10 people per square mile.
Update: On a more detailed examination of those two states, I’m convinced the contrast here is due to differences in the sizes of the blocks. North Dakota’s blocks are more consistently small (StDev of 3.3) while South Dakota’s are more varied (StDev of 9.28). West of the Missouri River, South Dakota’s blocks are substantially larger than those in ND, so a single inhabitant can appear to take up more space. Between the states, this provides a good lesson in how changing the size and shape of a geographic unit can alter perceptions of the landscape.
Finally, the differences between the eastern and western halves of the contiguous 48 states are particularly stark to me. In the east, with its larger population, unpopulated places are more likely to stand out on the map. In the west, the opposite is true. There, population centers stand out against the wilderness.
Ultimately, I made this map to show a different side of the United States. Human geographers spend so much time thinking about where people are. I thought I might bring some new insight by showing where they are not, adding contrast and context to the typical displays of the country’s population geography.
I’m sure I’ve all but scratched the surface of insight available from examining this map. There’s a lot of data here. What trends and patterns do you see?
- The Gulf of California is missing from this version. I guess it got filled in while doing touch ups. Oops. There’s a link to a corrected map at the top of the post.
- Some islands may be missing if they were not a part of the waterbody data sets I used.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
Block geography and population data from U.S. Census Bureau
Water body geography from National Hydrology Dataset and Natural Earth
Made with Tilemill
USGS National Atlas Equal Area Projection
Words from a son of Brooklyn: Spike Lee On Gentrification & Christopher Columbus Syndrome
Spike Lee had some choice words about gentrification while giving a talk at Pratt.
Being that he is native of this fair city, it should surprise exactly no one that his words were tinged with anger and outrage and insult.
Nor should anyone be shocked that he made generous use of the word fuck. Well deserved in this context and beloved vocabulary word of all New Yorkers.
As neighborhoods continue to transform, and New Yorkers — black, white purple / rich, poor, furry / gold, silver, bronze — continue to watch this city change, these words resonate and urge us to continue to ask questions.
Here’s the thing: I grew up here in Fort Greene. I grew up here in New York. It’s changed. And why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the south Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better?….
Then comes the motherfuckin’ Christopher Columbus Syndrome. You can’t discover this! We been here. You just can’t come and bogart. There were brothers playing motherfuckin’ African drums in Mount Morris Park for 40 years and now they can’t do it anymore because the new inhabitants said the drums are loud. My father’s a great jazz musician. He bought a house in nineteen-motherfuckin’-sixty-eight, and the motherfuckin’ people moved in last year and called the cops on my father. He’s not — he doesn’t even play electric bass! It’s acoustic! We bought the motherfuckin’ house in nineteen-sixty-motherfuckin’-eight and now you call the cops? In 2013? Get the fuck outta here!….
You can’t just come in when people have a culture that’s been laid down for generations and you come in and now shit gotta change because you’re here?
This is not the first time Spike Lee has shared his thoughts on the changing demographics and cultural shifts in his home borough.
McDonald’s: Global Mega Corp, Local Senior Hangout
The NYT has followed up on their coverage of a group of badass Korean seniors occupying the “courtside seating” at a Queens McDonald’s, to the chagrin of management.
The lesson here is simple: people like to choose where they spend their time; generally they want that place to be in the center of the action, provide amenities they enjoy, and serve a functional social purpose.
The Flushing McDonald’s Social Club (as I am boldly and very creatively calling it henceforth) is no anomaly in this regard:
They don’t use the local senior center, they said, because it’s in a church a mile and a half away. (Never mind that it’s in a church basement.) “There’s a van that will take us there,” Kun Pae Yim, 86, one of the McDonald’s regulars, told me. “We’re grateful for the offer. But we are not schoolchildren or government workers. We want to see our friends when we choose.”
Ah, yes. The power of choice afforded by mobility and independence! Any 11 year old making their first solo trips to the local grocery store can relate to the rush of joy you get with freedom.
But for these seniors, there is another element at play. Having a regular meeting spot allows them to check in on each other and have company during otherwise long solo days.
“It’s how we keep track of each other now,” Mr. Yim told me. “Everybody checks in at McDonald’s at least once a day, so we know they’re O.K.”
Seniors have been on the block for a while. As everyone with a sassy grandmother knows, they know where the best seat in the house is, and how to get it.
After several decades on the planet, they have a finely honed appreciation for quality space that I can only hope the rest of us will acquire with age.
McDonald’s could use a little classing up and maybe a new image as a friendly neighborhood senior center rather than a purveyor of pink sludge.
And as the US population continues to age, they might find it beneficial to adapt and welcome older customers rather than call the cops on a bunch of geriatrics.
Although by that time, these seniors will probably have found a better place to spend their days.
Seniors Occupy McDonalds
In Queens, some pretty badass seniors have taken over a McDonald’s, using it as their clubhouse, much to the chagrin of employees.
Mr. Lee said the officers had been called because he and his friends — a revolving group who shuffle into the McDonald’s on the corner of Parsons and Northern Boulevards on walkers, or with canes, in wheelchairs or with infirm steps, as early as 5 a.m. and often linger until well after dark — had, as they seem to do every day, long overstayed their welcome.
Flushing has no shortage of spaces available for gathering and socializing,but the seniors have eschewed them all in favor of this one particular McDonald’s.
“Large group — males, females — refusing to get up and leave,” read the police summary of one 911 call placed on Jan. 3 at 2:30 p.m. “The group passed a lot of sit-down time. Refusing to let other customers sit.”
“They ordered us out,” Mr. Lee said from his seat in the same McDonald’s booth a week after the incident, beneath a sign that said customers have 20 minutes to finish their food. (He had already been there two hours.) “So I left,” he said. “Then I walked around the block and came right back again.”
In San Francisco, the anti-gentrification movement is taking to the streets.
Your move, Brooklyn.
Protestors Blockade Google Bus on 24th and Mission
A group of protestors, angered by rising rents and neighborhood gentrification, blocked a parked Google bus filled with workers from departing from the corner of 24th and Mission this morning. Bearing mock traffic signs that said “Two-Tiered System” and “Illegal Use of Public Infrastructure,” what appeared to be a dozen neon-vested activists stood in front and behind the bus, preventing it from leaving. According to reports from the scene, the bus departed after half an hour.
According to a flyer handed out by protestors at the scene and their website, the activists—who called themselves the “San Francisco Displacement and Neighborhood Impact Agency”—demanded that tech firms pay $1 billion to the city for what they call “illegal” use of MUNI bus stops. Those funds, they went on to say, could be used to fund affordable housing, eviction defense, and a halt to Ellis Act evictions.
From inside the bus, one woman took to Twitter to express her displeasure:
@FashionistaLab: thank-you protesters, for delaying my commute by 30 minutes. that’s really going to solve a lot of problems! #googlebus #undersiege
@FashionistaLab: my #googlebus is still under siege. I agree that there are a lot of probs w/ housing & displacement in SF, but we are not the source of it.
@FashionistaLab: @thepearshape they’re protesting people who work at Google and live in the Mission? Not sure.
@FashionistaLab: I agree with you that SF isn’t for sale, but don’t hate on me for my job. You think I LIKE commuting to Mountain View? this protest is dumb.
@FashionistaLab: Some people on this Google bus are/were sympathetic to your cause, but way to paint a broad brush and demonize innocent people.
@FashionistaLab: My Google Bus is currently under siege by protesters at 24th and Valencia. Hey protesters: it’s not nice to hijack ppl on their way to work!
I think we can expect to see more of this sort of thing. Gentrification is only increasing in pace and scope, and still seen by many in government/local government as the least worst or only realistic way to improve run-down neighbourhoods. There’s only one way we can save our cities: PLANNING.
Just a little Thanksgiving infrastructure.
“Trenton makes; the world takes.”
In Buffalo, urban planners are using small-scale development to address challenges of vacancy in low market areas.
Can vacancy be adequately addressed at this scale?
In upstate New York, buyers with activist inclinations are preserving a city, one foreclosed house at a time.
What will New York be like under de Blasio?
I asked and answered at Untapped Cities.
Oh Chrysler and Empire - you win every time.
Fun Maps: How New Yorkers Really Feel About Each Other (414 of them at least) http://ift.tt/1byWQaU
These 3D images of inequality are pretty incredible!
The power of the Census!
How Bad Is the Income Gap in Your City? The Answer in GIFs
Artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm recently created these eye-popping 3-D images of New York City’s towering levels of incoming inequality.
Lamm has now expanded his project to include other major US cities. As you’ll see in the GIFs below, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami are now part of the 3-D inequality club. Using 2012 data from the mapping site ArcGIS, Lamm superimposed green blocks representing the median net worth of census block groups over photos of the cityscape. The effect clearly visualizes the drastic levels of income inequality found across the country.
(Source: Mother Jones)