Mapping poverty rates by county across the US

A story about the recently released figures regarding poverty in the United States includes a nice map from Mint.com that show poverty rates by county. The map shows higher rates of poverty in Louisiana, Mississippi, some parts of Texas and New Mexico, Appalachia, some of the middle parts of the southern Atlantic states, and some pockets in the upper Great Plains.

This map shows the proportion of residents who are living in poverty; while the national rate is now about 1 in 7 Americans is under the poverty line, 25% or more of residents in these locations live in poverty. Many of these counties are more rural counties. The map would look different if it were mapping the absolute number of people living in poverty – then you might see a shift toward some larger metropolitan areas.

While areas of concentrated poverty in the city get a lot of attention, what is going on in some of these more rural areas? How did poverty rates shift over the last couple of decades in these locations?

A website to help understand scales

The BBC has put together a cool website that maps certain physical features, manmade features, or events onto other maps to provide a sense of scale.

Once we get to large numbers, many of us are not very good with visualizing how large something is. Take, for example, the national debt – it is nearly beyond comprehension. Or the distance between Earth and the sun. Or the population of China. We tend to think in smaller units so larger numbers tend to cause problems. People who operate in such units try to break it down into more manageable sizes: this is the average debt per US citizen, that distance would equal X number of trips from the Earth to the moon, that population would be roughly 37 times the population of California.