When it comes to understanding the diversity—or lack thereof—across America’s neighborhoods, a detailed map of population and race would help—but it’s tricky. The U.S. Census Bureau’s public household data has been limited to mapping in 1.15-square-mile segments—large chunks that offer more privacy but can also inaccurately represent an area’s real population density and racial makeup. Astrophysicist Tomasz Stepinski knew he could do better.
Adapting a grid-charting system used for mapping the craters of Mars for NASA, Stepinski and his postdoctoral researcher Anna Dmowska, have created the most detailed map of the United States’ racial diversity—ever. The interactive tool displays enormous volumes of census information through more granular units, each representing 323 square feet. The result is a visual presentation that’s more accurate and useful to analysts interested in exploring geographic shifts in population and racial diversity.
Stepinski is already picking up on trends in the data from the 1990, 2000, and 2010 censes: Generally, white neighborhoods have become more diverse, Asian and Hispanic populations appear to be concentrating in distinct geographic pockets, while largely black neighborhoods have not increased in diversity.
Stepinski hopes the map will make it easier for analysts to research and understand place-based population and diversity trends, and he plans to update it when the next set of census data is released for 2020. Explore the map for yourself here.