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Population “Movers” Maps / Visualizations

Detroit Is a Bright Spot on the Map of Urban Outflux

Population “Movers” Maps / Visualizations

Population change in Detroit from 2000-2010. Red indicates net loss of residents, blue indicates population influx. (Stephen Von Worley, Data Pointed)
Image courtesy of Wired.com

Turns out if you want to get a away from people in America, there are still a lot of places to go. This map shows that 60 percent of the land (the area in black) is occupied by only 0.05 percent the population. (Stephen Von Worley, Data Pointed)

Here in the U.S. we move a lot. But while most of us consider a “move” as going from one town or city to another, mapmaker Stephen Von Worley is more interested in how we move within cities themselves. And, as it turns out, while folks in many cities are fleeing to the suburbs – one town sprung a tiny crop of growth: Detroit.

For his “Growth Rings” project, the data visualization artist used U.S. Census data to map where America’s population had moved to between 2000 and 2010. When the results came in there were obvious answers: “New track developments appear to be sucking the life out of the older neighborhoods,” he wrote in a blog post accompanying his maps. Then he noticed a tiny spot of hope in, of all places, Detroit. Among all the red showing the neighborhoods people had left was a patch of blue showing population growth right smack in the middle of downtown, even though the city had lost a quarter of its population in that span of time.

It was a small sign of hope in what otherwise was a pretty predictable pattern of Americans moving out of cities (see a few of the other cities above), for many reasons. Von Worley, an artist and computer scientist based in Santa Cruz, told WIRED in an email that the name “Growth Rings” is a reference to this outflux of citizens, particularly “Hurricane Katrina’s depopulation of New Orleans, and the urban sprawl of Austin and Las Vegas.” And for his map of Detroit, the results are pretty much the same (minus that one patch) and, he notes, you can almost see the city’s disenfranchised neighborhoods even though they’re unmarked – particularly the city’s racial and economic dividing line, Eight Mile. (It largely runs through the swaths of red on the map.)

“I intentionally did not include a base map so that the patterns within the data could speak for themselves,” Von Worley said. “Although Detroit’s municipal boundaries aren’t explicitly drawn, you can trace them out, down to the block, where reds of inner city decline meets the grays and blues of the surrounding suburbs.”

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