New maps of racial diversity in the United States - Geographical
Repurposed NASA maps show the racial diversity (and segregation) of the United States in more detail than ever before
Satellite data previously used by NASA to map the Earth’s land masses has been combined with census data from 1990 to 2010 in order to map the planet’s people instead, or at least those in the United States. The new map, produced by the University of Cincinnati, offers unprecedented insights into the kaleidoscopic spread of diversity in US neighbourhoods.
Maps have been created using census data before, but usually in much less detail. This is because the census contains sensitive information such as participants’ income and education, so the government instead takes averages in large blocks measuring three square kilometres in urban areas and 108 square kilometres in rural regions. ‘Privacy is assured but it costs a significant – in some cases very significant – loss of spatial accuracy,’ explains Anna Dmowska, postdoctoral researcher and co-author of the maps. For example, if the block area is large but only a small portion of it is lived in – perhaps due to lakes, factories or parks – the block data would inaccurately show it as all being inhabited.