Historical shifts in where people live

The places in the United States with the highest populations weren’t always like that. There were shifts over decades. With the recent Census release for state populations, Harry Stevens and Nick Kirkpatrick for The Washington Post go all in with a series of bump charts to show the changes in state population rankings since 1920.

They point out historical markers along the way, split it up by region, and provide an explorer at the end to look at your states of interest. In the end, it all comes down to weather and air conditioning.

Still deciding what I think about those gradient connections.

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Map of nighttime lights normalized by population

You’ve probably seen the composite map of lights at night from NASA. It looks a lot like population density. Tim Wallace adjusted the map for population, so that you can see (roughly) the areas that produce more light per person.

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Game: How many US cities can you name?

How many US cities can you name? Here’s a quick and fun game by Ian Fisher to find out. Simply start entering as many as you can think of and rack up population counts as a sort of point system.

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Searching for the densest square kilometer in different cities

Based on data from Gridded Population of the World, geographer Garrett Dash Nelson calculated the square kilometers in major cities with the highest population density.

On CityLab:

In the interactive visualization, I’ve taken GPW data for a curated selection of American cities. Some have old, historic cores, and others are dominated by more recent development; some have constricting physical geographies and others lie on relatively flat, open plains; some were built for horse transportation and others for the automobile era.

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Population mountains

You’ve seen the maps of population density. You’ve seen the jokes. But you haven’t seen population at high granularity in a 3-D view. Matt Daniels for The Pudding used a mountain metaphor to show the peaks and valleys of population around the world.

You get more out of the data in this view than you would the overhead, which tends to obscure the variation in large cities. Although if you must, Daniels also provides the typical view to reference.

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Ask the Question, Visualize the Answer

Let's work through a practical example to see how asking and answering questions helps guide you towards more focused data graphics. Read More

World population estimator and gridded data from NASA

Population data typically comes in the context of boundaries. City data. County data. Country data. With their Population Estimate Service, NASA provides data at higher granularity. You can request estimated population in the context of a world grid.

Here’s an interactive map to demonstrate the API. Click and drag a shape across any region in the world and get an estimate of the population within that shape. [via kottke]

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Majority minorities

We saw the changing percentage of white people in the United States and how whites are not the majority in a lot of places. Who is the majority in these areas? Here’s a breakdown for the main three races that make up majorities.





Native American:


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Percentage of white people

Below is the estimated percentage of white population in the United States from 1970 to 2010, based on data from the Census Bureau and made more accessible by NHGIS. I like the evaporative quality coming up in the southwest.


Mostly though, this is just me trying out a new toy, and the form fascinates me at the moment.

Members: I’m working on a set of tutorials for how to make these. There are a few steps involved, so I’m breaking it down to make it more digestible. Part 1 is here.

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Two Centuries of Population, Animated

Population density

A visual history of a growing United States. Read More