Map #15: November 21, 2016

Difficulty Level: 4

Click here for a full-size version of this week’s map.

This map is a choropleth of the United States. (Do you need a refresher on what a choropleth is? Visit our “Basics” page for a quick primer.) On this map, each county is shaded in accordance with a particular statistic. The darker shades of blue represent counties that possess more of a particular statistic. (Note: there are two closely related statistics that produce nearly identical maps; we’ll accept either answer.) Your job for this week: figure out what statistic is represented by this choropleth.

Stumped? Check back Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for hints about where to focus your investigation. The answer will be posted on Monday, November 28. Good luck!

Tuesday’s warning: It is worth reiterating something mentioned above, which is that darker shades of blue represent countries that possess more of the relevant statistic. If you submit an answer where “more” corresponds with “lighter,” you’re going to be wrong.

Tuesday’s hint: This map has certain similarities to Map #13, the map from two weeks ago. The final hint for that map drew your attention to Menominee County, Wisconsin; Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota; and Apache County, Arizona—all of which stuck out on that map. Those same counties are all fairly dark blue on this choropleth as well. To solve this map, you might want to think about what else these counties have in common besides the fact that they are home to large Native American reservations.

Wednesday’s hint: Yesterday’s hint mentioned that several counties with significant Native American populations show up clearly on this map. But Native Americans aren’t the only minority community that is well represented on this map. Many of the counties of southern Texas, New Mexico, and central California that are dark blue on this map are home to large Latino communities. In the lower reaches of the Mississippi River in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, you can find counties where many residents are African-American. The same holds true for the former cotton belt arcing through Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. In order to solve this map, you might want to think about what daily life is like for people living in these communities.

Thursday’s hint: Generally speaking, the darkest counties on this map are in rural areas. In most cases, the counties that are home to big cities are lighter in color. There are, however, some exceptions: counties that appear somewhat darker than their surrounding areas. Such counties include those thar are home to Detroit, Michigan; Flint, Michigan; Gary, Indiana; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Fresno, California; and New Orleans, Louisiana. What do you think you would find if you visited these cities? Try a Google image search for Flint or Gary—what kinds of houses do you see in the photos?

Friday’s hint: By now, most of you have figured out that the counties that appear dark on this map are ones that are relatively less wealthy. The question that remains is to figure out precisely what statistic is being mapped. It might help to take a look at a map of counties by median household income so that you can compare the two maps side by side. In general, the maps are opposites of each other: counties that are dark on this week’s map tend to be light on the median income map, and vice versa. But there are some counties that appear fairly dark on both maps. Can you find any? One is Hampden County, Massachusetts. Hampden County is home to the city of Springfield (a relatively impoverished city) and to a variety of small towns, many of which have many wealthy residents. The town of Longmeadow, Massachusetts, for example, has a median annual household income of over $100,000. By contrast, the median annual household income in Springfield is only $35,603. Since Hampden County appears relatively dark on both this week’s map and a map of median income, we know that this week’s map depicts a statistic that is more skewed by the poorer population of Springfield than by the richer population of the surrounding towns.

Answer: Click here to see an explanation of the answer to this week’s map question.

Next map: Click here to try out our newest map question.