Maps

5 Maps That Show How Divided America Really Is

Breaking down the country by income, inequality, poverty and education.

We've written before about why the American Community Survey is so valuable (and why periodic attempts by Congress to gut it are so foolish). The annual survey by the Census Bureau collects much more detailed information than the decennial census, yielding constantly updated statistics on how we commute to work, whether we have health insurance, and what kind of homes we live in. The resulting picture tells us a lot about the country – or, rather, how where we live influences our dramatically varied experiences of America.

The below five maps were created by Calvin Metcalf, Kyle Box and Laura Evans using the latest five-year American Community Survey estimates provided by the Census Bureau for last weekend's National Day of Civic Hacking (we're geeking out on these projects this week).

Working from Boston, the group has so far mapped nearly a dozen demographic points from the data, including a few they calculated on their own (be sure to check out the very bizarre map of America's gender ratios by county). These five maps, however, jumped out at us for how they each illustrate deep and lingering differences between the American North and South, as seen through several different data points. Of course, the patterns aren't perfect, and exceptions abound; major cities in the North turn out to be hotspots of inequality on par with much of the Deep South.

But the overall trends in these maps are relevant for thinking about communities most in need of investment (and the politicians, for instance, currently rejecting Medicaid). All of the maps are divided by county, set on a basemap from OpenStreetMap. You can navigate them and view the others here.

Median income (in annual dollars)

Population living below the poverty line (by percent)

Income inequality (as measured by the Gini coefficient, the closer to zero the better)

Reliance on food stamps (by percentage of the population)

Population over 25 without a high school diploma (by percent)

All maps courtesy of Calvin Metcalf, Kyle Box and Laura Evans.

About the Author

  • Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific StandardGOODThe Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.