Map #27: February 20, 2017

Difficulty Level: 5

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

This map is a choropleth of the regions of the European Union. (Do you need a refresher on what a choropleth is? Visit our “Basics” page for a quick primer.) This map shows 27 of the member states of the E.U., leaving off only Croatia, which joined in 2013. Each country is divided into the second-level subdivisions of the “Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics” scheme. These divisions can be a bit uneven—this system gives France 27 subdivisions and Germany 39, but it does not divide some smaller countries at all. On this choropleth, each region is shaded according to a particular statistic. Regions with a darker shade of red have more of this particular statistic. 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, February 27. Good luck!

Tuesday’s hint: Germany as a whole is relatively light on this choropleth, but there’s an interesting trend going on within Germany. For the most part, the parts of the country that were once under communist rule as East Germany are darker than the parts of the country that were part of West Germany. It has been nearly three decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, yet a clear division between the two Germanies persists, at least on this map. So a good first step toward solving this map might be to consider what differences you would notice between the western and eastern parts of Germany.

Wednesday’s hint: Italy, like Germany, has a regional pattern on this choropleth. In this case, it gets darker toward the south of the country. The dark region includes several big cities, including Naples and Palermo. Geographers sometimes talk about the “Ancona line,” which passes through the city of Ancona in central Italy and divides the north from the south. Look up this line and read a little bit about it. What are the main differences between the north and the south?

Thursday’s hint: The darkest countries on this map are Spain, Italy, and Greece. Two other countries that have relatively dark areas are Portugal and Ireland. If you put Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain together into a single funny-sounding acronym, you get “PIIGS.” Look up this acronym. To what does it refer? Does that help you make sense of this map?

Friday’s hint: For the past few hints, we’ve been talking about areas of Europe with struggling economies. Today, let’s flip it around and talk about the lightest regions on this map. The four regions with the lowest values for this week’s statistic are all in southern Germany: Freiburg, Niederbayern, Oberbayern, and Oberpfalz. For the most part, these are not the most densely populated areas or the richest areas of Germany. One of the things that distinguishes these areas, however, is that the young people who live there tend to be quite well educated. Freiburg, the region with the lowest value of this week’s statistic, is home to a famous university. Imagine that you have just graduated from the University of Freiburg. What would you do? Would you be able to do the same thing if you lived in Seville, Naples, or Athens?

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

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