Tag Archives: Population

Creating and Analyzing Regional Cartograms

In my last post, I discussed how to easily create compelling Cartograms in ArcGIS.  I would now like to point out one of the best things about the tool:  You are not confined to creating cartograms of variables by countries of the world.  Think outside the box!  You can create cartograms for any set of polygons that you choose!  A set of provinces or states, neighborhoods in your community, or even watersheds are all good candidates.

Let’s take population from 1900 to 2000 for a state, such as the great state of Kansas.  You and your students can certainly create standard choropleth maps showing the population each census year and even a animation to help visualize the changes.  But creating cartograms of the population in each county provides additional insight.  See the output from selected years, below.  The cartograms show the settlement of the high plains (western Kansas) from 1900 to 1930, followed by population loss that continues in some counties all the way to 2010.  Coupled with that is the rise of the urban centers of Wichita (south central Kansas) and Topeka, Lawrence, and Kansas City (northeast Kansas).  The combination of these trends, brought about by social, physical, and economic forces, squeeze some of the northern and western counties so much that they are almost invisible by 2010.  I’ve been to many of these counties, though, and rest assured that there are some vibrant communities and good people there!

Think about doing this for your own area–population change in your own state over time, water quality or river flow differences by watershed, or crime rates or median age by neighborhood in your own community.  If you do this, I think it is advantageous if the readers of your cartograms know what the areas that you are analyzing look like as a standard map for comparison purposes.  Thus, you might consider providing this standard map at the front of your set of cartograms, as I do below.  That way, your audience will more readily understand how the variables you are mapping distort the “standard” way of looking at that area.

The possibilities for increased spatial literacy and understanding with cartograms and ArcGIS are endless.

State of Kansas - Counties and cities - Standard View

State of Kansas – Counties and cities – Standard View

Population in 1900 by county in Kansas

Population in 1900 by county in Kansas.  Many of the eastern and central Kansas counties had similar population totals.

Population in 1930 by county in Kansas

Population in 1930 by county in Kansas.  The western third has now been settled, but the east continues to increase at a more rapid rate.

Population in 1960 by county in Kansas.

Population in 1960 by county in Kansas.  Many western counties have lost population or gained very little compared to the rise of the major urban centers of Wichita, Topeka, Lawrence, and Kansas City.

Population in 2010 by county in Kansas.

Population in 2010 by county in Kansas.  Urbanization continues, particularly Johnson County (suburban Kansas City) although selected rural counties are gaining population as well.

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Fun with GIS 179: Learn Quickly, Please!

Dear students: Spaceship alert! It is not fair, but our survival depends on your ability to grasp complex situations that are influenced by multiple factors. You cannot possibly know everything, because conditions change, and each day brings new discoveries. We cannot let you wait until all relevant knowledge is in place.

The situations are numerous: population, food, clean water, political stability, personal liberty, group identity, economic development, environmental sustainability … and more. You must grasp complex ideas and how they relate to us: space and time, proximity and scale, cause and effect, systems and feedback, power and competition, values and tradeoffs, science and passion, creativity and inspiration, predictability and variation, permanence and mortality, privacy and sharing, law and justice.

We offer a tool to help: GIS. It lets you combine layers of data, explore here and there, see change over time, integrate different factors, analyze patterns, visualize relationships. If you can move a mouse, imagine what a bird sees, pick out a pattern, group similar things together and represent them, and ask a relevant question, you can learn and help us all.

We need you to start practicing, today, with easy tasks. It can be fun, too, seeing what you know about your neighborhood, and can learn about the larger community. Harder tasks will come soon, so we need you to practice. You can start at Esri’s K12 GIS Org, and your school can start at Esri’s ConnectED page. We depend on you. Learn quickly, please!

Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Exploring Demographics and Lifestyles with the Esri Tapestry Data

What is your neighborhood really like?  In 1988, Michael Weiss, in his fascinating book The Clustering of America, introduced the idea that neighborhoods can be grouped in terms of lifestyles, consumer spending, demographics, and socioeconomic variables. Part of a larger field of study known as Cluster Analysis, the descriptive names given to neighborhoods included “Furs and Station Wagons”, “Towns and Gowns” (college towns), and “Laptops and Lattes.” From this sprang geodemographics—the analysis of people based on where and how they live.  Some have argued that geodemographics had its roots in Charles Booth’s survey into life and labor in London during the 1890s.  However, it wasn’t until the 1990s when geodemographics became very important to businesses seeking to make wise decisions about where to locate.

I first wrote about the lifestyle cluster data available from Esri back in 2009, and since that time, the ways that the data can be accessed has become easier than ever.  In addition, the data itself has become more accurate and more detailed.  Tapestry segmentation provides an accurate, detailed description of America’s neighborhoods. U.S. residential areas are divided into 67 distinctive segments based on their socioeconomic and demographic composition, and then further classified into 14 LifeMode and Urbanization Groups.

If you are new to analyzing this type of data, I recommend starting with the introduction, reviewing the cluster segments, and examining the poster (you can even order your own paper copy of the poster here).

Now you’re ready for examining the data in live web maps.  Start by looking up the tapestry segments for your own zip code here.  Next, open the story map for a tour of the USA’s 14 LifeMode groups here.  You can also examine the data in an ArcGIS Online map, where at small scales, a single dot is shown for each ZIP Code, based on the predominant tapestry code.  As you zoom in, the map transitions to show dot density patterns for each tapestry segment found in the ZIP Code.  That’s not all!  You can also examine the tapestry data as a map layer, so that if you wanted to combine it with other data in ArcGIS Online, such as median household income, median age, the diversity index, or the growth rate, you could do so.

You can also examine the data inside two powerful applications–Community Analyst and Business Analyst (and its web counterpart, Business Analyst Online).  One advantage of using the tapestry data inside these applications is that you have the ability to easily create a wealth of maps and reports as well as attribute and location data on millions of business locations.

Space does not permit me to fully expand on the rich discussions that you can have with students with using the tapestry data, but they include discussing the differences between aggregated data and individual data, and whether you feel that the tapestry segment(s) for your neighborhood, region, or state accurately describe it, or why not.  Discussions could also include how your neighborhood compares with those adjacent to it, or to those across town, or to the neighborhood in which you grew up.  How do you believe your neighborhood is changing, and why?  What influence do specific industries, or natural resources, or universities or retirement communities have on your neighborhood?

Looking for this type of data outside the USA?  Some does exist; contact your local distributor for more information.

Please share in the comments section below how you are using this data in your instruction.

Tapestry data for a neighborhood in Washington DC

Tapestry data for a neighborhood in Washington DC.

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Analyzing Youth and Senior Population Distribution Around the Globe

A set of maps in the Urban Observatory collection makes the study of the patterns of the age structure of the population quick and powerful.  Two maps, Youth Population around the Globe, and Senior Population around the Globe are particularly useful in courses and units focusing on demographics, space, and place.  On the youth (grouped typically as 14 and under for most countries with a few exceptions) map, areas with more than 33% youth are highlighted with a dark red shading while a dot representation reveals the number of seniors and their distribution in bright red.  Areas with more than 10% seniors (age 60 and over for most countries, with a few exceptions) are highlighted with a dark red shading while a dot representation reveals the number of seniors and their distribution in bright red.

This dataset is comprised of multiple sources. All of the demographic data are from the Esri Business Partner Michael Bauer Research with the exception of nine countries.  The maps are presented as map services, which means you can add them as layers to your existing maps of other themes, such as birth rates, growth rates, and life expectancies by country.  This, along with the dynamic environment that ArcGIS Online is, allows for great flexibility in your investigations.

There are many ways to teach with these maps and I look forward to hearing how you are incorporating this into your courses, or plan to do so.  But in the meantime, one way you can teach with these maps is to compare selected youth and seniors in selected cities, at the same scale. In some rural areas, a higher incidence of youth gives a clue to the presence of college towns and military bases.  In others, such as the southeast coast of Florida, the presence of retirement communities makes the senior map quite bright indeed.

In cities, patterns of international migration and country growth rate become evident.  For example, examining the map below showing the distribution of youth in Lagos, Nigeria can be contrasted with the same map at the same scale at the location of Tokyo, Japan, underneath it.  The higher growth rate in Lagos and throughout Nigeria is reflected in the higher incidence of youth there than in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan.  The pattern and number of the senior population is much higher in Tokyo than in Lagos.  Within some cities, the pattern of seniors reflects retirement high-rises and neighborhoods, such as in southeast Denver, Colorado, USA.

Map of Youths in Lagos, Nigeria

Map of Youths in Lagos, Nigeria

Below is the map of youth in Tokyo, Japan:

Map of Youths in Tokyo, Japan

Map of Youths in Tokyo, Japan

Below is the map showing seniors in Lagos, Nigeria:

Map of Seniors in Lagos, Nigeria

Below is the map showing seniors in Tokyo, Japan:

Map of Seniors in Tokyo, Japan

Map of Seniors in Tokyo, Japan.

I encourage you to begin investigating these powerful web maps today.

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Analyzing population data through web map buffers

Would you like to teach about population and GIS simultaneously with an easy-to-use live web mapping tool?  This can be easily done using the Esri developer site that returns block points and summary of population within a buffer in a location chosen by you, the user of the map.  After selecting a point, the map displays centroids in each of the census blocks within a one mile buffer around that point.

How can this map tool be used in education?  First, you can use it to teach the concept of spatial proximity.  Second, you can also use it to teach census geography, including census blocks, the difference between households and housing units, and the difference between blocks versus census tracts.  Third, you can use it to teach about population density and how settlement patterns vary between urban and rural areas, and the effect of physical geography such as rivers and relief.  The map begins in Lawrence, Kansas, but you can query other areas in the USA, as long as you keep the map at a large scale.

Population Buffer Map Tool

Population Buffer Map Tool.

Give it a try!

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Investigating Demographics through Population Pyramids in Live Web Maps

For decades, examining population pyramids has been an essential part of geography.  And for good reason:  In a small amount of space, they illustrate the distribution of age groups in a country, region, census enumeration district, or other geographic area. Through studying them, one quickly gets some sense of the demographic characteristics of an area.  Population pyramids are a part of the “geoenrichment” capabilities in ArcGIS Online, so named because with a touch or two of the mouse, you have instant access to additional your demographic and lifestyle data that describe income, consumer behavior, market potential, and more.  One easy way to get a sense for the possibilities available with ArcGIS Online for demographic study through population pyramids is through this demonstration web mapping resource.

Accessing the demonstration resource places you in Los Angeles County, but you can zoom and pan to other areas in the USA.  In each case, the pyramid for the one mile buffer around your chosen point is shown, with comparison to the population pyramid for the entire county containing that point.  The map must be at a medium to large scale.  The pyramid for certain areas departs significantly from the characteristics for the county as a whole, as in the case below for an area in Orange County, California. What clues on the map indicate why the pyramid is so lopsided?

Population Pyramid for an area near two universities in Irvine, California

Population Pyramid for an area near two universities in Irvine, California.

Investigate areas containing college campuses, military bases, prisons, summer homes, retirement communities, and other features.  As students begin to think spatially using these tools, ask them to pose hypotheses about the age structure of the population, and then test those hypotheses.  Discuss the effect that scale has on age data.  Discuss the impact that variables such as immigration, migration, economic conditions, local land use, and perception of place have on age structure.  Discuss the past and future age structure of chosen areas.  The possibilities are endless with this single web mapping tool.  When you use geoenrichment in your own account, note that it does consume credits, but not in this demonstration tool.  When you’re ready for more, investigate the other geoenrichment capabilities in ArcGIS Online.

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Esri Maps for Office in Education: New Instructional Videos

Got spreadsheets?  Want to map them?  You can easily do so with Esri Maps for Office.  I have created a series of 3 new videos describing what Esri Maps for Office is, why it is useful in education, and how it can be used.  There is about 20 minutes of content in these videos but it is presented in easy-to-understand demonstrations of the tools using real-world contexts and problems.  Because so much work that students and instructors do is in spreadsheet format, such as with Microsoft Excel, being able to easily map that data can be instructive in mathematics, geography, biology, engineering, business, and in many other disciplines, as well as serve as an excellent research tool for you or your students.

The first video describes what Esri Maps for Office is, what you need to run it, and the wonderful and powerful capabilities that it includes.  As long as your data includes a locational component, such as names of cities or countries, zip codes, street addresses, or latitude-longitude values, you will be able to map it and analyze resulting patterns.  Best of all, your resulting maps can be shared with others.

In the second video, I demonstrate how Esri Maps for Office’s core capabilities can be used.  Specifically, I create a map from data that is in an Excel spreadsheet format (on election results by state), classify the data, and publish the map in ArcGIS Online.  I also show the data enrichment tools, which allows you to tap into an additional wealth of census, environmental, and other variables from the Esri ArcGIS Online cloud.

In the third video, I show how your newly published maps from Esri Maps for Office can be embedded into PowerPoint slides as dynamic maps.  I also demonstrate how to map latitude-longitude points  Finally, I show how geographic areas other than standard ones such as countries, states, counties, and so on, can be mapped, such as town boundaries in New England or regional administrative districts in France, for example.

Mapping spreadsheet data using Esri Maps for Office

Mapping spreadsheet data using Esri Maps for Office.

How might you be able to make use of these videos and Esri Maps for Office in your instruction?

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People Living in Water? Reflections on Data Quality

In my last post, I introduced a dot map of population change and discussed ways it could foster critical and spatial thinking in education.  Now let’s go beyond understanding which regions are increasing or decreasing in population to deeper issues of data representation.

How can this same web map be used to illustrate fundamental concepts of interpreting dot density maps, such as displaying aggregate values vs. individuals, and the placement of the individual dots in a statistical polygon?  Upon loading the dot density population growth and decline map in a web browser, the map resets to Denver.  Zoom in to the text on the map identifying the city of Lakewood, just west of Denver. Zoom in until you find some lakes just south of Lakewood; for example, Marston Lake, shown in the following figure. If you zoom in to a certain scale, you will see dots in the lake. Why are dots shown in this lake and other lakes, and in rivers?  Do these dots represent people living on houseboats, do they represent people who are perpetually on water skis, or could it be something else?

Do these dots represent people living in the lake?

Do these dots represent people living in the lake?

The dots are there not because people are living in or on the lake, but because the dots are randomly assigned to the statistical area that was used.  In this case, the statistical areas are census tracts or block groups, depending on the scale that is being examined.  The same phenomena can be seen with dot density maps at the county, state, or country level.  And the data examined does not have to be population.  For example, dots on dot density maps showing soybean bushels harvested by county could also be shown in the water, as could the number of cows or pigs, or even soil chemistry from sample boreholes.  In each case, the dots do not represent the actual location where people live, or animals graze, or soil was tested.

Helping students understand concepts such as these may seem insignificant but is an important part of map interpretation, understanding issues and phenomena, and thinking critically and spatially.  What other examples could you use from web based maps such as these?

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Bicentennial of the New Madrid Earthquakes: Seismic Calamity along the Mississippi



On December 16, 1811 a violent earthquake shattered a winter night along the Mississippi River Valley in an area of present-day northeast Arkansas. While the region was sparsely settled at the time, the local European and Native American inhabitants were being introduced to what would only be the beginning of a nightmarish winter framed by the mid-December occurrence, followed by another main event in late January, and an even more fierce temblor in early February centered outside the village of New Madrid in the Bootheel of present-day Missouri. The community was effectively destroyed, while in St. Louis, over 150 miles upriver, houses were severely damaged with chimneys crashing down. All of the principal shocks were felt far to the east with amazing reports coming from cities as far away as Boston and Toronto. In between and into the spring, numerous aftershocks were triggered and felt. Together, these were the largest earthquakes to have occurred since European settlement east of the Rocky Mountains in the US and Canada.

I grew up near this region and have experienced first-hand what can happen in this seismically active area. A few years ago, I created a blog series and a map project using ArcGIS Explorer Desktop to examine some aspects of the region. My work then was triggered by a sizeable event in the spring of 2008 in southern Illinois. Today’s blog post draws a bit from that series but its main purpose is to highlight a new map I’ve been building using ArcGIS Explorer Online, a growing array of map services found in ArcGIS Online, and some CSV files I crafted and added to my map. Not surprising, the map is focused on the Bicentennial of the New Madrid Earthquakes.

Rather than describe the specifics of what the map contains, I have instead added that information as “metadata” and discussion at the map’s storage location in ArcGIS Online, as well as links to some USGS resources. Here’s a mini-URL that you can share, www.esriurl.com/NewMadrid. Once you are at the site, open the map in either the default option, Explorer Online, or the ArcGIS.com mapviewer. Also, rather than take you on a guided tour, here instead are a couple of screenshots of what you’ll discover.

Historical earthquakes and recent events


Historical earthquakes and nearby populated places


Please feel free to augment what I have done and save your own version of the map by logging in with your Esri Global Account, doing a “save as,” and share the new map. If you do craft your version, be sure to add your own description and other information for other users.

Also, remember the New Madrid Seismic Zone and similar zones in the Central US are active. Be sure to examine current population densities in these areas to begin to understand the human risk in a region not immediately recognized as a hazardous area.

Lastly, stay tuned for an Esri Map Story on this topic later this week.

- George Dailey, Co-Manager, Esri Education Program Manager

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Fun with GIS #98: Tree Planters

It’s Thanksgiving. Seven miles above the Pacific Ocean, I’ve been flying for hours, with hours still to go. Taking off from Los Angeles, we were quickly out over the blue. At over 500 miles per hour, this miracle of aviation makes “short work” of a trip to Hawaii, but the time, distance, and implications are mind-bending.

Our collective impact on the world is staggering. Seven billion people, with more every minute. Despite the magical nature of such a trip (“Walking in the Air” from “The Snowman” plays in my head), I know I too have an impact. Our global quest for “more” consumes the valuable and multiplies waste.

Gazing over this expanse of soft blue, yet knowing that it grows warmer, more ravaged, more acidic, bigger, and less predictable, and what it means to us all, gives me pause. It is not always easy being a geographer, constantly seeing patterns and relationships, large and small.

Along these silver wings, I spy thousands of tiny rivets. Each plays a role. What would happen if one were lost? Or 25, at random sites, or concentrated? How many rivets are expendable?

So, in this special week, I offer my thanks to the tree-planters among us — those around the world who seek sustainable, long-term solutions, conscious of the present, but committed to a better collective future, knowing there is but one dinner table, and we are all together. The gardeners and educators, the scientists and engineers, the peacemakers and poets. We face enormous obstacles, and the path grows more arduous each day. We must all choose carefully.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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