Thursday, March 31, 2011

NYC - Undercounted AGAIN!??!!

March 31st, 2011 Census Update

Here's an article in The New York Times about New York City's presumed "undercount." The Census Bureau had originally estimated an increase in the past decade of 400,000 in NYC's population, (which would have represented a 5% increase over Census 2000 population counts) but the actual Census survey showed an increase of only 167,000, which equals about a 2% increase over the Census 2000 population count.  The mayor and Borough Presidents are crying "Foul," and it is not just because they are trying to protect NYC's reputation as a powerhouse of growth and innovation: many Federal $$ programs are dispensed to locations based on population counts.  NYC will lose out if the current numbers stand.

But this overall increase of 2% masks many important local differences (as usual!).  If you think your part of the city is now more crowded than in the recent past, you may be right - population in some parts of the city DID increase significantly, balanced out by other parts of the city that lost population.  See maps from The NY Times, above and below.  Of course, compared to many cities, NYC is not doing too badly in the "keeping them here" department - Detroit, by comparison, lost fully 25% of its population in the past 10 years.

From The NY Times - Interactive 2010 Census Mapping
Browse population growth and decline throughout the U.S., changes in racial and ethnic concentrations and patterns of housing development (by county).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Segmentation of America

The 12 States of America, by Dante Chinni and James Gimpel, from “Patchwork Nation”

Over the past few months, this blog has explored a number of spatial facets of the American landscape: migration trends, re-regionalization, some new socio-demographic patterns as shown in the 2010 Census, issues of gentrification, urban inequities, megaregions, the national Twitter, criminal justice spending, and a host of others topics, including a number of historical-geographical look-backs on our recent and not-so-recent pasts, and how they inform our current lived experiences. 
Continuing in this theme of putting the U.S. under the “spatial microscope” (giving props to Andrew M. for turning me on to this phrase), this posting introduces the reality of the segmentation of America.  Starting off with looking at how fragmented (and unevenly distributed) our country is in terms of basic economic indicators, we move on to how this fragmentation is used by marketers/advertisers/corporations to categorize you, pigeon-hole you, to better enable them to sell you stuff (market segmentation), or to deny you stuff.  And how, in general, our lives are being monitored and tracked to a degree never before imagined outside of 1984, and science fiction (and this if often with our own tacit or implicit permission! We are complicit in our own surveillance!).  Well, it’s perhaps not the cheeriest of postings.  But it is pretty interesting! 

The 12 States of America
I recently saw this map and an article called “The 12 States of America (Since 1980, Income Inequality has Fractured the Nation),” published in The Atlantic.  And of course I was intrigued.
The authors, Dante Chinni and James Gimpel, who also wrote the book associated with this work, “Patchwork Nation,”  say they assembled thousands of data points to categorize each county in the U.S. by one of 12 different themes, which presumably describes each specific county better than any one of the other categories.  The themes are: 
§  Boom towns
§  Campuses and careers
§  Emptying nests
§  Evangelical epicenters
§  Immigration nation
§  Industrial metropolis
§  Military bastions
§  Minority central
§  Monied 'burbs
§  Mormon outposts
§  Service worker centers
§  Tractor country

This process of assigning socio-demographic profiles to counties is fraught with problems, as commenters on The Atlantic blog have duly noted.  First of all, it reduces a heterogeneous and multi-faceted county to a uni-dimensional descriptor.  Many counties would rightfully be able to lay claim to being in several of these categories, and despite the fact that the authors say they had a method for ascertaining which was the most appropriate category, it still feels a bit arbitrary and unsatisfactory.  If you click on the category name, they do give some definitions and demographic graphs, fleshing out their classification process a little more.  For instance, “service worker centers” are defined as “Midsize and small towns with economies fueled by hotels, stores and restaurants and lower-than-average median household income by county.”  According to this, the service worker centers have a predominantly white population, with a lower household income than the country average, and place very high on the “Hardship Index.”  Whereas the “Immigration Nation” category means “Communities with large Latino populations and lower-than-average incomes, typically clustered in the South and Southwest.” 

Another downside to the 12 States approach is that some of the categories are so broken up geographically that there aren’t contiguous groups of counties formed but merely dots of categories scattered here and there throughout the landscape, which doesn’t appear very helpful in obtaining a snapshot of who and where we are these days.  So rather than 12 contiguous “states,” as the geographical way we normally think of states, we get more like hundreds of city-states and vast hinterlands.  The most problematic categories in terms of excessive geographical fragmentation seem to be Industrial Metropolis, Monied ‘Burbs, and Military Bastions.  Only Minority Central, Tractor Country, and Service Worker Centers seemed to have any real geographic cohesiveness, and even those were pretty spotty.
Their website, however, is quite interesting.  You can plug in your zip code and see how your county is classified.  I tried some zipcodes around the country that I knew off the top of my head, and I have to say, the matching-up of zip code to descriptor was not always very accurate, in my estimation.  Their methodology is explained fully in their book, but basically you have to take them at their word that they tried to pick the most definitive category based on their criteria, since each county could be assigned only one descriptor. 
There are some cool datasets that allow you to map, among other things, numbers of Walmarts per county (an indication of blue-collar-ness?), counties containing a Cracker Barrel restaurant (presumably some metric of “redneck-edness”?), gun dealers per 100K pop (scary-ass-place-ness?), percent attending church regularly (the high in the data range is only 20%???), and various voting patterns. 
The Federal spending per capita is an interesting one.  The category of over $80,000 per year per capita occurs most frequently in the middle of the farm belt, and doesn’t seem to be an urban phenomena at all.  Certain counties in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska, isolated other spots in Texas and Louisiana seem to top the charts for Federal spending per capita at well over $80K per person.  The Bronx, by comparison, was $13K, Queens is 9K, and NY County (Manhattan) is 15K.  Poor Brooklyn is only 6K!  For some odd reason, Cape May, NJ has over 120K of Federal dollars coming in per person!  Dare County, NC (which is listed as a “boom town” category) gets 122K per capita in federal spending.  What are they doing down there?  No wonder it’s a boom town!   In fact a lot of the coastal counties in the south seem to be getting inordinate amounts of the Federal largesse.  Could it be for hurricane protection or something?  I can’t imagine.  But even Orleans parish itself where New Orleans is located, doesn’t see close to these amounts.  Maybe it's for defense? A disproprotionate number of elderly live in these counties? 
So the data is fun to map and toggle around with, but the authors commit the cardinal sins of choroplething absolute numbers, and also overlaying two choropleth maps on top of one another, in order to visualize multivariable data (NOT!!!).  Oh, well. 
They also break the country down in a more geographical sense by “districts,” and here they have 9 categories, and these appear to have more geographical cohesiveness.  They also bear some conceptual resemblance to the regions in Joel Garreau’s book Nine Nations of North America:
§  Established wealth,
§  The shifting middle
§  Booming growth
§  New diversity
§  Young exurbs
§  Old diversity
§  Wired and educated
§  Christian conservative
§  Small town America

Socio-Demographic Profiling for Marketing:
            I have a general problem with these socio-demographic profiles, right from the get-go.  Years ago, when firms like Claritas started segmenting markets into categories of supposedly like-minded individuals for the purpose of pinpoint targeting for advertising/marketing/purchasing, I used to cringe.  Now it has become a common place with many such firms entering the fray.  Their categories are much more extensive and fine-tuned than the Patchwork Nation ones, and include such distinctions as globetrotters, business class, golden agers, power couples, technovators, up-and-comers, middleburg managers, multi-culti mosaic, park bench seniors, money and brains, pools and patios, bohemian mix, upper crust, country squires, urban achievers, new homesteaders, big sky families, and so forth.  They have a number of different classification systems, one of which seems to be all about income and leisure activities and spending, and one is all about stage in the life cycle and lifestyle/housing/community/geographical choice and situation.  You can see all the different classification schemes and categories on the Claritas website at

Claritas has one scheme focusing on media connectivity, which has categories such as Antenna land, plugged-in families, satellite seniors, old time media, the unconnected, land line living, generation wifi, cyber-sophisticates, new kids on the grid, low speed boomers, analoggers, cinemaniacs, dish country, cyber strivers, internet hinterland, IM nation, kids and keyboards, and so forth.  I don’t know about you, but I hate the idea of the unique and messy complexity of “me” being reduced to a uni-dimensional category, (what would I be in their scheme of things, anyway? Digital dreamer? Grey power?).  But most of all, I hate that “they” know so much about me that they are able to fit me (or shoehorn me) into one of their categories.  It reminds me of that scene in the film Minority Reports (2002) where Tom Cruise walks down the street and all the billboards and advertisements talk to him directly, because they can respond to exactly “who” he is according to the interactive information the advertisements can glean from his unique ID (in that case, a retinal scan).  People, we are not far away from that at all, in fact the technology exists and is used in a limited fashion. 
This potential for privacy infringement and Big Brother-like surveillance is actually one of the more objectionable things about the universality of GPS enabled devices, mapping and tracking capabilities.  We have recently learned how dangerous it is to post digital photos on Facebook and other social networking sites because embedded within them is a geographical marker of exactly where the photo was taken, leading virtually anybody right to your doorstep.  See short ABC news story “TMI – Picture Privacy(Thanks for the link to this story, Kristen.)

From GIS for the Urban Environment: “Geodemographic data now can pinpoint the geographic location of individuals and with it, previously intimate and private information attached to those locations and individuals. Much information about an individual based solely on an address can be gathered from public or private sources.  Privately held data includes buying habits, income, vacation destinations, leisure activities, telephone and computer use, religious affiliation, banking and investment accounts, educational record, and medical information. Public data includes assessed value of a home, motor vehicle information, political contributions, and criminal record.  Many people clamor for full access to data until they realize what that might entail for the dissemination of private data about themselves. Where do we draw the line? What constitutes legitimate use of private data? 
There is an enormous potential for abuse in the use of data about individuals and the concomitant surveillance possibilities.  ‘The prospect of socioeconomic application of GIS permitting efficiently functioning organization such as insurance companies to develop ‘geodemographical’ insurance rate schedules based on the identification of zones and localities of high risk, the targeting of civil rights groups (the ‘politically militant’) for particular police or vigilante attention, or the extension of direct-mail solicitation to exact-market targeting based on recorded purchasing and general expenditure records (already a reality, of course) . . .’ is generally seen as objectionable when stated in terms of rights to privacy. All too often, however, these uses of GIS are seen as normal and neutral, as scientific uses of socioeconomic data (Pickles, Ground Truth: The Social Implications of GIS, 1995:16).
The construction of data profiles is particularly troubling in terms of privacy, since an individual can be profiled by someone utilizing individual level data, such as that available from credit card companies, governmental agencies, and so forth, and combining these with publicly-available aggregate data, such as sociodemographic data from the census or other data providers at the tract or ZIP Code level. This type of data profile may be an eerily accurate portrayal of an individual, and the potential for abuse of this profile is enormous,” (from GIS for the Urban Environment, 2006:285).

This, of course, has come true, with a vengeance.  Just the other day in The New York Times, there was quite an amazing piece about a German politician in the Green Party, and his quest to find out how much the phone company tracked his whereabouts by his cell phone location.  After much legal wrangling, he obtained 6 months of data pinpointing his whereabouts, with over 35,000 of his locations having been tracked (and stored!) by the phone company!  Then Mr. Spitz decided to map out the locational data points to obtain a visual narrative of the phone company tracking.  You can see it illustrated in a very cool interactive website, mapping where he (or more correctly, his cell phone) was during those 6 months.  Interactive map of 6-months of his locational data:

A visualization of data collected by Malte Spitz's mobile phone

“The data were contained in a massive Excel document.  Each of the 35,831 rows of the spreadsheet represents an instance when Spitz’s mobile phone transferred information over a half-year period.  Seen individually, the pieces of data are mostly inconsequential and harmless. But taken together, they provide what investigators call a profile – a clear picture of a person’s habits and preferences, and indeed, of his or her life.
This profile reveals when Spitz walked down the street, when he took a train, when he was in an airplane. It shows where he was in the cities he visited. It shows when he worked and when he slept, when he could be reached by phone and when was unavailable. It shows when he preferred to talk on his phone and when he preferred to send a text message. It shows which beer gardens he liked to visit in his free time. All in all, it reveals an entire life.
To illustrate just how much detail from someone’s life can be mined from this stored data, ZEIT ONLINE has 'augmented' Spitz’s information with records that anyone can access: the politician’s tweets and blog entries were added to the information on his movements.  It is the kind of process that any good investigator would likely use to profile a person under observation,” From “Data Protection: Betrayed by our Own Data,” in Zeit Online

“In the United States, there are law enforcement and safety reasons for cellphone companies being encouraged to keep track of its customers.  Both the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration have used cellphone records to identify suspects and make arrests.
If the information is valuable to law enforcement, it could be lucrative for marketers.  The major American cellphone providers declined to explain what exactly they collect and what they use it for.
Verizon, for example, declined to elaborate other than to point to its privacy policy, which includes: “Information such as call records, service usage, traffic data,” the statement in part reads, may be used for “marketing to you based on your use of the products and services you already have, subject to any restrictions required by law.”
AT&T, for example, works with a company, Sense Networks, that uses anonymous location information “to better understand aggregate human activity.” One product, CitySense, makes recommendations about local nightlife to customers who choose to participate based on their cellphone usage. (Many smartphone apps already on the market are based on location but that’s with the consent of the user and through GPS, not the cellphone company’s records.)”

From the New York Times article, March 27, 2011

It’s Tracking Your Every Move and You May Not Even Know, by Noam Cohen.

It’s a brave new world.  

Monday, March 28, 2011

The New Census

Bronx Ethnic Concentration by Block, 2010.  No big surprise, the Bronx is as diverse and as segregated as ever.  Map by Bill Bosworth, Bronx Data Center.

The 2010 Census
The new Census data is out now for New York State, at least the basic stuff.  It has the counts of Hispanics, Whites, Blacks, Asians, population over 18, vacant housing – all the necessary variables for delineating the new Congressional Districts for voting (the contentious redistricting process), which is, after all, the main purpose of the Census, despite how we geographers and other researchers have found myriad other uses for it!  This basic Census data is mandated by law to be available by April 1st of this year for all the states, and at some point after that the rest of the data will be released as it becomes ready. 
Bill Bosworth, Professor Emeritus and Director of the Bronx Data Center, has, as always, gotten the jump on the rest of us with the new Census data.  He has not only gotten the 2010 data into his computer, but has produced maps and comparative analyses with it already. 
Prof. Bosworth has a very interesting technique for mapping multiple variables at once.  For instance, for the map of Ethnic Concentrations above, he maps each block according to its majority population.  This yields a quite complete snapshot of overall distribution of racial and ethnic groups and allows one to view the data without confusion on one map, as opposed to mapping percentages of each racial/ethnic group separately.  This only works well, of course, because the Bronx is highly segregated, and most of its blocks are a majority of one population group or another.  In an area with more mixture, it is likely that no one group would dominate a block.  In the Bronx, most of the blocks are dominated by one group, as you can see in the map above. 
Comparing the 2000 and 2010 maps of blocks having an absolute majority of one ethnic/racial group, it seems that the Bronx is even more polarized now than it was 10 years ago, with more blocks having a 75-100% majority of one group, and fewer pockets of other groups interspersed in areas dominated by a different group.  This is especially true of the areas with majority Hispanic population.  These areas now contain a lower percentage of non-Hispanics than in 2000.  In the non-Hispanic Black majority areas, the reverse is true, and these areas seem to have become less Black and more mixed.  In the non-Hispanic White areas, some are now more mixed, and some now have an even higher percentage of White population. 
However, these maps are dealing in percentages only, per block, and don’t reflect the absolute total numbers of the various sub-populations in the Bronx.  Overall, according to Prof. Bosworth’s calculations based on the new Census, the non-Hispanic White population is now a little less than 11% of the total Bronx population, down from more than 14% in 2000.  In general, both the non-Hispanic Black and non-Hispanic White groups lost population in the Bronx since the 2000 Census.  The Hispanic population has grown by some 5 or 6 %, and total population in terms of absolute numbers is up for the Bronx overall (about 4% increase over 2000).

Unique Features of the Bronx:
            Some interesting and unique features of the Bronx, from the Bronx Data Center’s website:

In 2000, 48.4% of The Bronx population was Hispanic.  By 2009, the Census Bureau Population Estimates put the figure at 52%. [The 2010 Census puts the Hispanic population at 53.5%.]  In the eastern half of the United States, only Miami-Dade County, Florida has a higher proportion of Hispanics.  All the other counties with higher Hispanic rates are in the southwest, mostly along the Mexican border.

Over 30% of The Bronx population refused to identify themselves with "traditional" racial categories in the 2000 census.  Instead of the traditional categories, people identify themselves either as "some other race," or as "multiracial."  This figure rose to 36.3% in 2004, and to 39.8% by 2007.  In the 2004 data for all counties, no other county exceeded 30% in the eastern half of the U.S.

In 2000, only 14.5% of the Bronx population identified themselves as "Non-Hispanic White."  The 2009 Census Bureau estimate is 12.4%.  [The 2010 Census states it as 10.9%.]  In the eastern half of the U.S., only three counties have a smaller percentage of non-Hispanic Whites: the Menominee Indian reservation in Wisconsin, and two overwhelmingly Black counties: Jefferson in Mississippi, and Macon in Alabama.

In 2000, the Bronx was one of five counties in the U.S. where over 30% of households consisted of families headed by single women (2007: 30.0%).  Three of the five are Indian reservations in South Dakota; the fourth is Holmes County, Mississippi.

There’s lots more on the website, so check it out!  If you don’t know much about the Census, Prof. Bosworth’s webpage is a great primer on the topic. 

The Nation’s Mean Center of Population

On the Census website itself is a cool map animation of how the Mean Center of Population of the U.S. has moved since the first Census in 1790.  It has pretty much moved steadily west and a little bit south each decade from the beginning.  The Census Bureau estimates that the current (2010) Mean Center of Population is Plato, Missouri.  “The center is determined as the place where an imaginary, flat, weightless and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly if all residents were of identical weight…..Historically, the center of population has followed a trail that reflects the sweep of the nation's brush stroke across America's population canvas.  The sweep reflects the settling of the frontier, waves of immigration and the migration west and south.  Since 1790, the location has moved in a westerly, then a more southerly pattern.  In 2000, the new center of population was more than 1,000 miles from the first center in 1790, which was near Chestertown, Md.” (U.S. Bureau of the Census website).

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Re-Regionalizing the American Continent

The Nine Nations of North America, according to Joel Garreau

We can all probably agree that the borders of the states in the U.S. don’t represent very well the true cultural, linguistic, political, economic, and historic regional differences in the various parts of the country.  In many cases these borders are an impediment to sensible regional planning, and do not reflect true regional allegiances.  In fact, the way the states were formed is a fascinating historical story, but now-a-days the borders feel a little arbitrary.  (There is a nice book on this topic, called “The Fabric of America: How our Borders and Boundaries Shaped the Country and Forged our National Identity,” by Andro Linklater, 2007).  Over the years, a number of people have taken stabs at re-imagining the regions of America, (what I like to call “re-regionalizing”).  These plans often include our Canadian neighbors to the north and our Mexican neighbors to the south, while other schemes stop short at the borders. 

The Nine Nations of North America
Some of you may remember a book from yesteryear (1981) by Joel Garreau called the Nine Nations of North America.  Garreau went on to write, to great acclaim, the influential book “Edge Cities,” which had a big impact in urban and regional planning circles.  Anyway, in the Nine Nations book, he divided up the continent into 9 regions, creating larger geographical units than the current states, and smoothed out the data.  His “States” included “the Foundry," "Dixie," "the Breadbasket," "MexAmerica," “the Empty Quarter," "Ecotopia," "New England," and the "Islands," and “Quebec.”  Although the book is (WOW! Time flies!) 30 years old now, there is still a lot of validity to how he divided us up, and his methodology is worth reading about.
“Consider the way North America really works.  It is Nine Nations.  Each with its capital and distinctive web of power and influence.... These nations look different, feel different, and sound different from each other, and few of their boundaries match the political lines drawn on current maps....Most importantly, each nation has a distinctive prism through which it views the world,”  [Garreau, 1981:1-2].

How to Make Regions that Make Sense:
There are probably as many ways to group areas of the country together in more or less homogeneous chunks as there are pills in a bottle of Carters’ Little Liver Pills (I don’t actually know what that means – my great-grandmother, Maggie Barnacle, always used to say that when something was of such a vast quantity that it was uncountable, like the stars in the sky.  I think Carter’s Little Liver Pills must have been extremely tiny, and therefore so many were in the bottle that they seemed without number.) 
OK, back to regionalization:  Lots of different ways to slice and dice the continent.  After all, each Federal agency has their own method of dividing and grouping, for their own purposes, based on some unifying criteria:  the Census regions are different than the EPA regions, which are different than Federal Court Districts, ad infinitum.  Then, of course, there are natural ways to divide up the country, such as climatic zones, physiographic provinces, watersheds, ecoregions, etc. 
Here are some other fun ways to divide up the country into more sensible (or not!) regions.  I think we can all agree that the state boundaries don’t really reflect very well the true divisions in the U.S. anymore, if they ever did, and some of these other ones capture the true essence of regionalism in the best sense of the word. 
The U.S. still retains some of its old regionalism, even though overall it is much, much more homogenized than when I was a little girl and my family would take road trips around the country.  Back then, going to another state or region was almost as foreign as going abroad.  The Burma Shave signs along the (2-lane!) highways down south, the different foods, accents, and dialects, music and radio stations (Call letters starting with “W” east of the Mississippi and starting with “K” west of it), mom-and-pop stores and motels, distinctive regional architecture, and the fact that large parts of the country were still under insane segregation laws, all pointed to a regionalism which we have by and large lost today.  I miss that (well, all excepting the insane segregation laws) in our new world of coast-to-coast chain fast food joints, identical big box stores, cookie-cutter suburbs, you-could-be-anywhere hotels, and same-old, same old satellite radio stations and cable TV. 

Divided States of America In, United States of America Out - Here we have 10 regions.  This map was first published in a conservative Turkish newspaper, in response to a "leaked" map supposedly made in the U.S. that divided up Turkey and the Middle East along ethnic/tribal/religious lines, and gave large areas of Turkey, Iraq, etc., back to the Kurds to form an actual nation called Kurdistan, etc. (oops!  Did I say “BACK to the Kurds”?) This map dividing up the U.S. was apparently their semi-serious and slightly snarky way of getting back at us for having the temerity to divide up THEIR world.  The carved up Middle East map, supposedly done by someone named Colonel Peters in the U.S. Defense Dept., can be seen here:

New Map of North America created by Colonel Peters, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, US Defense Department - boy he really gets around, this guy!  (NO, PEOPLE - IT’S NOT FOR REAL!  This is what’s known as a “spoof.”)

Canada and the United States in the Year 2092, by Douglas Coupland, author of “Shampoo Planet” and “Generation X.”  This map, first issued in 1992, was in response to a Constitutional amendment in Canada giving Quebec and First Nation territories much more autonomy.  This apparently got him thinking about what would happen if the U.S. also instituted some changes based on cultural regionalism, and what the country/continent might look like 100 years into the future.  (Hard to believe, but I cut this map out of the New York Times and kept it hanging around my many and various offices for nearly 20 years!  Never throw anything away, kids, you never know when it might come in handy!) Check out the "Kudzu Line," the Miami Ciudad Libre, also the Citicorp Cuba, Utah Theocracy, Manhattan People's Soviet, Electric Zone (leased to Consolidated Edison unil 2110) and many other amusing conceits. My personal favorite is Wen-Ge-Hua, Free City of Vancouver. I'm sure that's where I'll be!

The 38 States of America?
George Etzel Pearcy, a California State University geography professor, re-drew the state borders of the U.S. to end up with 38 states rather than 50.  The borders were put in less populated areas, allowing major metropolitan areas to be contained all within one state, and having a goal of one major city in each state, rather than multiple cities vying for scarce state resources.  According to the 1975 People’s Almanac, “when Pearcy realigned the U.S., he gave high priority to population density, location of cities, lines of transportation, land relief, and size and shape of individual States.  Whenever possible lines were located in less populated areas.”  Also, the names of the new states were based on a student survey of each area’s most identifiable physical or cultural attribute.  He also believed that millions of taxpayer dollars would be saved by having fewer state governments. Here's more info on how the boundary lines were determined.

America 2040, (after Armageddon has occurred, obviously, judging by the number of nuked cities and "plague zones.")   From Prayers for the Assassin, by Robert Ferrigno.

10 U.S. voting regions from the Boston Globe (2004)

And the 10 voting regions revisited, 2008

And here are some just for fun: you know, the U.S. regions according to such and such. 

The New Yorker’s Map of the U.S.

This one is simple – only three regional divisions needed!  Redneckistan, Pacifica, and the New American Republic.

And here's a late-breaking one that a reader just sent in.  See his comment below. It's an animated version of the map above. 

And we will end on this note – the U.S. divided up into the major cultural/tribal regions of the original inhabitants of the continent. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Remember the Triangle!

Detail from the mural “Victory of Light over Darkness,” by Ernest Fiene, 1944, depicting a scene from the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, March 25, 1911.  From the exhibit Art ~ Memory ~ Place: Commemorating the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.   See below for more details on the mural.  

Today is the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Factory Fire in Lower Manhattan, where workers lost their lives due to faulty and non-existent safety provisions and terrible working conditions.  The fire served to wake people up from their fantasy of the then-commonly-held notion that unbridled and unregulated capitalism would raise all boats, and be good for the workers as well as business owners.  The horrific fire resulted in important and far-reaching regulatory changes protecting workers in many trades other than just needlecrafts. 
Yesterday I visited New York University’s Grey Galleries to see an exhibit on the tragedy and its aftermath.  NYU currently owns the building where the fire took place, and it is now used for Biology and Chemistry teaching labs and classrooms.  Although these types of loft buildings were heralded at the time as the latest in modern worker environments - vast improvements over the then-typical sweat shop conditions in crowded tenement buildings of the Lower East Side - they were still far from having a high standard of occupational, health, and environmental protection. 
Here are some photos from the exhibit.  For more details about the fire, please see my previous post from February 26th, at

Further detail of Victory of Light Over Darkness, above.
“Photodocumentation of the mural by Ernest Fiene 'History of the Needlecraft Industry,' Central High School of Needle Trades, (now High School of Fashion Industries), New York, 1938-1944.

Detail from 'Victory of Light over Darkness'
In the late 1930’s, the Needlecraft Education Commission, which had close ties to the ILGWU [International Ladies Garment Workers Union], commissioned Ernest Fiene – who had emigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1912 at the age of 18 – to paint murals in the auditorium of the new Central High School of Needle Trades.  The first panel, 'Victory of Light over Darkness,’ culminated in this scene of the Triangle fire.  Although the vast majority of Triangle victims were young women, the fallen worker seen here, cradled by a female figure, is male.  The image evokes the Lamentation, which shows the dead Christ mourned by the Virgin Mary.  Standing at the right is Lillian Wald, founder of the Henry Street Settlement.  While Fiene’s mural was privately commissioned, it resembles – in is subject, style, male muscularity, and left-leaning politics – the government-sponsored WPA murals that he also painted.” (Text from the exhibit Art ~  Memory ~ Place) 

“Victor Joseph Gatto
Triangle Fire, March 25, 1911 (ca. 1944)
Oil on canvas
Museum of the City of New York

At the age of 18, Victor Gatto witnessed the Triangle fire from nearby Washington Square.  Three decades after, he produced this vivid painting, its bright colors in stark contrast to the black-and-white photographs from the time of the fire.  At the bottom, policemen restrain spectators while smoke and flames shoot out from the building’s windows, and firefighters with their pump engines direct water at the blaze.  Near the fire ladders, workers fall through the air; on the sidewalk in from of NYU’s Main Building (now home to the Grey Art Gallery) is a neatly arranged row of shrouded bodies.
A little-known artist from an Italian immigrant family, Victor Gatto worked as a steamfitter, plumber, and featherweight boxer before turning to painting in his forties.  He claimed that his new career was inspired by seeing the prices charged at an outdoor art exhibit in Washington Square.  As a member of the working class, Gatto likely identified with the fire’s victims and intended this painting as both memorial and cautionary tale.”  (Text from the exhibit Art ~ Memory ~ Place) 

“Former Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins and Eleanor Roosevelt at the 50th Anniversary commemoration at the site of the Triangle fire, March 25, 1961.
International Ladies Garment Workers Union Archives, Kheel Center, Cornell University

Just before the tragedy’s 50th anniversary, Leon Stein, editor of Justice, the ILGWU’s publication, began organizing a commemorative ceremony at the site of the fire. In conjunction with David Dubinsky, Stein planned an event in which elected officials, union representatives and supporters, New York University staff, and survivors and their families would come together in recognition of the fire’s significance.  During the ceremony, Dubinsky relayed a message of protest against the Albert-Folmer bill, which would have weakened enforcement of New York States fire protection legislation;  Frances Perkins gave an eyewitness account of the fires as seen from the street below; and Eleanor Roosevelt emphasized the need for vigilance on labor issues.”  (Text from the exhibit Art ~ Memory ~ Place)  [In 1911, Frances Perkins was a very young Columbia University graduate student who happened to be in Washington Square the day of the fire.  She was the first ever female cabinet member for a U.S. President.  FDR's choice of Frances as Secretary of Labor was probably partially due to her excellent service on the NYS Factory Investigating Commission that investigated worker safety problems after the Triangle fire, and promulgated 30 sets of new regulations.  As Secretary of Labor for 12 years under FDR, she was largely responsible for the U.S. adoption of social security, unemployment insurance, federal laws regulating child labor, and adoption of the federal minimum wage and overtime laws.  Frances Perkins called the day of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire “the day the New Deal began.” ]

Current art works commemorating the Triangle fire and the workers.  (from the exhibit Art ~ Memory ~ Place)

NYU’s Brown Building, formerly the Asch Building, where the Triangle Shirtwaist Company occupied the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors.  When I took this photo, the barricades were already up along Washington Place and Greene Street in anticipation of the 20,000 people expected to attend the March 25 commemorative events and solemnities, which are set to culminate in a lecture in the historic Great Hall of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science And Art.  The Great Hall is where Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglas, Mark Twain, Salman Rushdie, Norman Mailer, Barak Obama, Ulysses Grant, and many other luminaries of politics, science, and letters, have addressed New Yorkers in public forums for over 150 years.  As well, the Great Hall has been the scene of many public debates and rallies on worker's rights campaigns, voting rights for black men after the Civil War, the birth of the NAACP, women's sufferage movement, and the creation of the American Red Cross, to name but a few of the seminal happenings at the Great Hall since 1858). 

The National Historic Landmark plaque, from 1991, on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the fire.

All photos taken by the Map Monkey on a beautiful but cold NYC spring day, March 24, 2011. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Resistance Mapping

“Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) outbreaks have been a growing public health concern since the 1960s, and in the late 2000s, MRSA mortality rates in the United States exceeded the combined death tolls of AIDS, tuberculosis, and hepatitis B," Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, Washington DC and New Delhi.

These maps tell the story of growing resistance to commonly used antibiotics and identify regional differences in resistance levels.  The CDDEP website has a series of map animations showing various drug-bug combinations, and the spatial distribution of resistance to commonly-used antibiotic/antimicrobial drugs within regions of the U.S., 2000-2009.  The prevalence of drug-resistant strains of disease has become a matter of grave concern, since so many of these diseases are potentially fatal, especially amongst the very young, the elderly, and the immuno-compromised.  One of the reasons that this situation is so alarming to people is the fact that just being in the hospital is itself a risk factor for acquiring some of these diseases.  The potential of getting one of these diseases while in the hospital for an unrelated condition is quite high, yet we want to think of the hospital as a place where we go to be helped, healed, or cured, not to be exposed to additional problems.  The maps on the CDDEP website separate the disease rates into two categories: for those diseases acquired while in the hospital, and those acquired in the community. 
Although the maps appear to be showing the data at the state level, the data are really aggregated at a coarser resolution - by the 9 Census Regions in the continental U.S.  Aggregating up to the regional level was necessary due to lack of representation of laboratories in some years in some states.  The researchers felt that their results still have validity, since they expect that states in close proximity within the same region would have similar rates. 
            Thanks for sending the link, Chris Herrmann!  For the animation series:

Ciprofloxacin-resistant E. coli in the United States, 2007.

Monday, March 21, 2011

200th Anniversary of the Commissioners’ Grid Plan for New York City

John Randel’s Map, as surveyed for the New York City Commissioners.

Tomorrow (March 22) is the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the 1811 Commissioners Plan for New York City.  Prior to the Commissioner’s grid plan, the city’s streets had been laid out rather willy-nilly, as befitting a city that was founded in essentially late mediaeval times by northern Europeans (who were not big fans of the grid, as were some of the Roman-derived cultures).  The old Dutch part of the city (the current downtown financial center) was an organic mélange of twisting narrow lanes, the street pattern still preserved in places like Stone, Beaver, Bridge, and Pearl Streets.  Many parts of the city that were settled later, like Greenwich Village and the old Lower East Side (not the East Village, but the area below Houston Street, between the Bowery and the East River) had their own independent street layouts, relatively unconnected with the other settlements in Manhattan.  There were even some early proto-grids around Delancey’s farm (now the Lower East Side), and other former farmsteads.  But what there wasn’t was a unifying overall street grid.  This is what the Commissioners hoped to accomplish with their new plan. 

Castello Plan (1660) of Dutch New York (Nieuw Amsterdam), showing lower Manhattan (north at right) with a fortified Wall Street at the northern boundary, and a star-shaped fort at the southern boundary. The southern tip of Manhattan is now much larger due to landfilling activities, which started with the Dutch in the 1600's.

You must understand that this was a very bold move on their part – in 1807, when the mappng work began, much of Manhattan was still uninhabited or sparsely inhabited, and was all hills and dales, especially in the northern reaches of Manhattan.  It undoubtedly seemed like a touch of madness to most New Yorkers at that time to plat such wild terrain.  As if anyone would ever live that far from Wall Street!
The purpose of the grid was to make the real estate development of the city more predictable and profitable, basically creating thousands of property lots of consistent, flat, and more or less equal size, (25 x 100 feet was the standard size lot) to facilitate quick sales and rapid building.  So a grid was thrown up over the hills and dales, and at least theoretically, and in some cases, in actuality, the hills and dales were leveled.  This plan paved the way (no pun intended) for the rapid development of the city, enormous real estate speculation, and huge profits to be made.  The Commissioners were basically saying: “it is our intention to build the street infrastructure in this way, so the city will grow.  You are safe to invest in these areas, even though they are right now far, far away from the settled parts of town, because if you build it, they will come.”  And they did.
This map shaped our city in ways few other phenomena, events, or people have done.  There was more criticism than praise for the plan at the beginning, with one commentator in 1818 saying, “These are men who would have cut down the seven hills of Rome.” Thomas Janvier's book In Old New York (1894) criticized the plan as only “a grind of money-making.” Ever since then, it has been the subject of continued debate: Monotony, or convenience?  Aesthetically abysmal, or delightfully vibrant?  Limiting, or the blank canvas for creativity?  Whatever your opinion, the grid plan has made New York one of the most walkable cities in the world, as well as produced one of the most frenzied real estate markets on earth. 
Henry James condemned it a century ago as a ‘primal topographic curse.’  Rem Koolhaas, the architect and urbanist, countered that its two-dimensional form created ‘undreamed-of freedom for three-dimensional anarchy.’  More recently, two historians described its map, regardless of its flaws, as ‘the single most important document in New York City’s development.’”  (Sam Roberts, The New York Times, March 21, 2011).  I would agree with that assessment. 

Interactive map of how NYC’s grid grew
Check out especially the “Street Openings Since 1642” map sequence

“200th Birthday for the Map that Made New York”

“No Hero in 1811, Street Grid’s Father Was Showered With Produce, Not Praise”

Article in the NY Times about John Randel Jr., the surveyors of the 1811 grid plan for NYC. 

Remarks of the Commissioners for laying out the streets and roads of the City of New York, Under the Act of April 3, 1807