Native Sons – A map of Americans living in the state where they were born.

Born_In_StateHaving seen an interactive the New York Times did recently looking at migration within the United States,, I decided that maybe I should go ahead and share my own take on it.

I looked at what I called “Native Sons” almost as soon as I started playing with the zipcode-level census data. The clear state borders you can see really stood out to me. Sadly, I didn’t think anyone else would be as interested in that… But from what I’ve seen of responses to the Times interactive, this is not the case. At least for Louisiana – one of the biggest homebodies of all the states. Born here, stay here, die here, apparently. Either the state is awesome, or we’re kind of timid/boring.


Link to interactive:


IrishThe first thing that struck me when I made this map: What the heck is up with Chicago?

Seriously, I had always thought Chicago was supposed to have an enormous Irish population – yet you just don’t see it on this zip-code level census data. Even poking around and mousing over individual zip codes in the area, I didn’t see much to explain the lack — no concentrated, 100% Irish neighborhoods, say.

But, again, that’s why you do these sorts of projects. Surprise results are a good thing, as they help dispel illusions you previously labored under. The Irish are a wonderful group to study when discussing immigration, because they’re one of the more famous groups of immigrants to arrive in America and face opposition from those who were already here. The map is set so the darkest green (please forgive the stereotype I indulged in, using green to represent the Irish) represents zip codes with 25% or more Irish descent.

There are many more ancestral groups to cover, and I will keep putting together new maps for as long as I can find the time — keep watching to see more of what makes up those who  make up America.

Link to my Tableau tool, so you can get individual zip code data for all ancestral breakdowns:!/vizhome/supercensus/Irish

Native Americans in America

Native_AmericansIt being Thanksgiving, I think of Native Americans, among other things. It’s a carryover from my childhood, when the whole Pilgrims & Indians mythos was treated as gospel truth.

Looking at their distribution, you can see Native American concentrations in modern tribal areas — Oklahoma, in particular, is easy to pick out. Other reservations and concentrations of Native Americans can be seen in the southwest, and parts of the northern Great Plains.

Native American demographics weren’t included in the census dataset I used as my primary source. They’re included in files that look at race, rather than ancestry, and it’s a little weird to me that the two aren’t kept together. Race is about more than just race – it’s also about where we came from, and how we got where we are today. These maps help show both where we are now, and to some extent, I think they speak to how we got here, as well.

Link to map in Tableau:

English in America

EnglishLike many Americans, I’m a little hazy on my family tree. However, I’ve always thought of myself as predominately British, and assumed that as a former British colony, English descendents would be heavily represented when I mapped them.

This was not the case.

While America has plenty of English-Americans, they’re much more sparse than, say, German-Americans. This also brings up an interesting question – how much of these census results is attributed to actual lineage, and how much is due to variances in self-reporting? In other words, when you can count German, English, Welsh and Scottish relatives as part of your family tree, how do you choose to describe yourself? Perhaps claiming English descent seems too pedestrian, and loses out to the more “exciting” choices of, say, Scottish. To get true data, you would probably have to turn to genetic testing, and data from genetic testers that release demographic information can’t be trusted as being statistically representative of everyone – getting tested costs money, and requires an interest in such things. That’s going to skew results.

For now, the census is as good as it gets, and I was quite surprised by this one. Here’s hoping I’m not alone – expected results can be awfully boring.

Link to my Tableau tool:

A map of Czech-Americans

In my continuing series looking at demographics of America, I now turn to Czech-Americans. Using Census data, I’ve mapped where people reporting Czech ancestry live in the United States.


The map shows a strong distribution in the mid-west and Texas, and is set so that it tops out at 5% of the population reporting Czech ancestry. I’ll be continuing this series – so stay tuned for new maps and a new look at the polyglot nature of America!

Here’s the Tableau map, if you’d like to zoom in and see smaller geographic areas:!/vizhome/supercensus/Czech

Where do our veterans live?


Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time with census data. This map is one of the results of that effort – and it shows, by zip code, where veterans are concentrated among the local population. Wherever on the map you see dark red, 20% (or more) of the residents are veterans.

Apparently, the west holds a draw for our veterans. Frankly, I’m a bit surprised by how much of the country includes veteran populations of 20% or more.

Here’s a link to the viz – you can mouse over zip codes for individual percentages, zoom in, etc:

The prescription drug epidemic in America

Whether due to pill mills or insatiable appetite, prescription drug use has soared in the United States. At the same time, drug overdoses and treatment admissions for heroin users who got their start using other opiates (like prescription opiates) have also spiked. Using six datasets, I’ve tried to give a glimpse into the problem.

Not all of these datasets are created equal. The drug seizure data, in particular, is problematic — as it’s culled from news reports. That sort of data is, at best, anecdotal. Frankly, I see the greatest value of that set as a way to compare the volume of reports generated for different drugs. In other words, it helps to show just how much attention various substances are receiving in the news.

I like this project, and I think it sheds light on a problem that is receiving plenty of attention, but little objective examination. Hard data on prescription drug abuse is very hard to come by. I know this – because putting this project together was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.