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

Most Popular

  1. Passengers line up for a bullet train at a platform in Tokyo Station.
    Transportation

    The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations

    The nation’s famed mastery of rail travel has been aided by some subtle behavioral tricks.

  2. Transportation

    Madrid Takes Its Car Ban to the Next Level

    Starting in November, the city will make clear that downtown streets are not for drivers.

  3. Equity

    The Disputed Second Life of an American Internment Camp

    In Northern California, a debate is raging about a plan to build a fence around the small airport sitting on a site where people of Japanese ancestry, most of whom were American citizens, were forcibly interned.

  4. A sign for women-first parking in a Seoul shopping center.
    Life

    What’s Up With Seoul’s Pink Parking Spaces for Women?

    They’re like regular parking spaces. Except, you know, pink.

  5. Transportation

    Why Are Little Kids in Japan So Independent?

    In Japan, small children take the subway and run errands alone, no parent in sight. The reason why has more to do with social trust than self-reliance.