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 13th (it will be out in January 2020), 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.

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Visualizing Residential Segregation in the US

A few months ago I commented on a truly amazing dot-density map of the US, in which you can practically pick out your own house in the context of population density around you. Now comes yet another amazing dot density map, building on that previous one, with the twist that this map colors the dots differently according to the race/ethnicity of the population. Dustin Cable of the University of Virginia did the map, while Emily Badger of TheAtlanticCities did the story:
Demographic researcher Dustin Cable's Racial Dot Map is staggering both visually and statistically. From afar, the most racially diverse pockets of the United States appear like blended watercolors in shades of purple and teal. Zoom all the way in, though, and each dot represents a single person, all 308,745,538 of us.
The data behind the map comes from the 2010 census, available publicly through the National Historical Geographic Information System. Cable, a researcher with the the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, has modeled the project on a previous MIT map plotting population density by individual dots. Cable's version color-codes the results by race and ethnicity, producing an eerily beautiful picture of American segregation (and, less frequently, integration) that tricks the eye at different scales.
Of course, there is sadly nothing beautiful about American segregation and the maps serve to remind us of its continued existence. Audrey Kobayashi, Professor of Geography at Queens University in Canada and Past President of the Association of American Geographers discussed this issue last year in one of her presidential columns.
Many studies have shown that it is easier to celebrate diversity than to address racism, but that the result of the former is often to make non-racialized people feel virtuous without necessarily understanding or developing ways to combat the effects of racialization. The concept of diversity is therefore easily co-opted by neoliberal regimes that market and commodify ethnic difference, celebrate self-help and entrepreneurial projects, and distance the state or institution from responsibility to effect social change.
We can't let ourselves complacently believe that accepting diversity is the same as reducing racism, and a map like the racial dot map helps us visualize where the problems might be the biggest and where real action is needed.

1 comment:

  1. As the map shows, the steepest segregation gradients lie in the places that are most fiercely liberal: Washington D.C., Manhattan, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco.

    It has been a marvel to watch the powerful opposition to a housing project in Hillary Clinton's Westchester, New York neighborhood that has occurred over the last four years.

    I do understand the sentiment of Westchesterites for good schools and safety, but I also observe that the hypocrisy of High Church Liberals is greater than the hypocrisy I have seen in any religious group.