Humans have a natural sense of place and we tend to define ourselves at least partly by where we live. But how do we define the boundaries of places? Political entities are typically used and they may or may not reflect the lives of everyday people. Two researchers have nicely utilized commute to work data from the American Community Survey to organize the U.S. into what might be called "organic" (as opposed to politically defined) regions. The results are published in the open source journal PLOS ONE and summarized on the Atlasobsura.com website. The first map below summarizes the commuting patterns between census tracts in the U.S.:
Now, to be sure, some of those commutes are small in number, but that is all discussed in the paper (which you should read before making a final decision about how you feel about this). Now, combining these linkages with visual interpretation, the researchers (Garrett Dash Nelson, a historical geographer from Dartmouth, and Alasdair Rae, an urban analyst from the University of Sheffield) came up with the following map of "real" regions of the U.S.:
Since the baseline data refer to commuting patterns, these regions represent what we might think of as "spheres of influence" of major cities. Thus, you have one big area in the western states that lacks big cities and thus lacks any real commute patterns. Maybe that's what's left of the "wild west."
This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.
If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org