Map #47: July 10, 2017

Difficulty Level: 8

July is Cal Poly Month here at Weekly Map. This map was made by an undergraduate student in Cal Poly’s data science program.

This map is a choropleth of the counties 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 colored in accordance with a particular statistic. The counties that are colored red have the highest values for this statistic, while the counties that are darkest green have the lowest values. This particular choice of scale highlights both counties with very high values and very low values. Counties that are white are those for which no data was available. Your job is to figure out what statistic is represented on 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, July 17. Good luck!

Monday’s warning: This week’s statistic is something that is highly correlated with a wide variety of other things. It should be fairly easy for you to come up with a solution that would produce a map that has a lot in common with this map, but difficult for you to get it exactly right. Check your answer before submitting!

Tuesday’s hint: It’s useful to compare this map with Map #15, which was a choropleth of child poverty rates. There are many similarities between that map and this week’s map, starting with the fact that the cotton belt of Mississippi and Alabama show up clearly on both. So does Appalachia, though the poverty map has slightly more color in Kentucky and this week’s map is a bit darker in West Virginia. The southwestern parts of South Dakota, which are home to some large Native American populations, are dark on both maps as well. So this week’s map clearly has something to do with poverty. But there are also areas that are quite poor but which do not stand out on this week’s map. One good example is southern Texas along the Rio Grande, an area with a large percentage of Latinos. Can you think of a statistic that is highly correlated with poverty in African American and Native American communities, but not quite as much in heavily Latino areas?

Wednesday’s hint: There are a fair number of statistics in which Mississippi ranks at the top and Colorado at the bottom (or is it the other way around?). One is the obesity rate. When I first saw this map, it didn’t have the insets for Alaska and Hawaii, and I was convinced it was a map of obesity rate. The problem is that Alaska has a relatively obese population...but it’s totally green on this map. Can you figure out what is special about Alaska that distinguishes it from other places with high obesity rates?

Thursday’s hint: Here’s an interesting fact about the state of Mississippi: of the total amount of money that residents of Mississippi spend each year on eating out, 62% is spent at fast food restaurants. That’s the highest percentage anywhere in the U.S. What are some of the consequences for your health if you eat too much fast food?

Friday’s hint: This week’s choropleth plots the rates of a particular disease...but which disease?