City Mice, Country Mice

January 27, 2010
Posted by Jay Livingston

Pennsylvania – Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west, and Alabama in between.

The quote is usually attributed to political consultant James Carville. But how much “in between” is there? That’s crucial if you’re counting votes, which is mostly what Carville is interested in. But it’s also important for demographic variables that might not have much to do with voting.

I was thinking about this problem today because I’d just assigned students to look at the distribution of a variable across states. The trouble is that when you see a high or low score on some variable for a state, there are two important things you need to know:
  • how concentrated is the state’s population; how much of it is accounted for by one or two large cities?
  • how different are the metro and non-metro populations on this variable?
Unfortunately, the data set my students have to work with doesn’t provide that information.

Neil Freeman at Fake is the New Real gives us some help by slicing metro areas (blue) away from states (brown) and then resizing each according to population. Here’s Pennsylvania, carved à la Carville.

(Fake Freeman puts the areas in rank order of population. I had to find the pieces and put them back together to make this graphic.)

New Yorkers often distinguish between the New York City area (NYC plus the Long Island and Westchester suburbs) and everything else, called “Upstate.” Here’s how that one looks (Fake Freeman separates Buffalo and Rochester as well).

(Note: the scale in the two graphics is the same. So Pennsylvania without its cities is more populous that New York without its cities. Pittsburgh metro is much larger than Buffalo or Rochester.)

Other interesting states:
  • Illinois – Chicago and Downstate
  • Texas – even without its big cities, Texas ranks fourth (after NYC, LA, and Chicago). There’s still a lot of non-metro Texas. Don’t mess with it.
  • Nevada – Las Vegas (ranked #64) dwarfs the rest of the state (#93).
  • New Jersey– Fake Freeman takes out the urban areas, giving them either to the NYC or Philadelphia metro area. After that, there’s just not much left – geographically, at least (in population, non-metro NJ is ranked 89th, which puts it ahead of a half-dozen intact states).


Anonymous said...

The name of the person who creates the project is right there on the site. Why do you call him "Fake", which is a contraction of the site URL?

Jay Livingston said...

Sorry. As you note, I was using Fake as shorthand for the name of the site.