For the new, interactive, Racial Dot Map project visit HERE.

The dot density map of U.S., Canadian, and Mexico census data by MIT’s Media Lab got a lot of attention…so we decided to give it a try ourselves, taking a deeper look into census data for Virginia’s major urban centers and smaller cities. All of the dots on the following maps represent one person, as enumerated by the 2010 Census, with a little bit of a twist.  Rather than giving everyone a black dot, as MIT’s Media Lab did, we added another layer of data by assigning color dots based on race and ethnicity.  The results are quite illuminating…

Take the City of Charlottesville as an example: Charlottesville Virginia Dot Density Population Map 2010 The great thing about dot density maps is that they elegantly convey a lot of data in a small space.  Total population, population density, geographic distribution, and race/ethnicity are displayed in a single visual.  Also, by incorporating the racial and ethnic data, the extent and degree of residential segregation manifests itself.  These maps still work for even the most densely populated areas… Fairfax, the Beltway, and Manassas: Northern Virginia Dot Density Population Map 2010 Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, and Hampton: Hampton Roads Dot Density Population Map 2010 However, like the Charlottesville example, some of most interesting maps are for Virginia’s smaller cities and towns. Winchester City: Winchester Virginia Dot Density Population Map 2010

Despite their utility and beauty, these maps have their limitations.  They are bounded by the highest resolution possible with census data, namely population data by Census Block, the smallest unit of census geography (roughly equivalent to a city block in a urban area).  The dots are randomly placed within Census Blocks so sometimes may not represent actual residences for some larger area and less-populated Census Blocks.

Note:  The racial categories for White, Black, Asian, and Other are all non-Hispanic.  Hispanic dots represent a person of any race, but are usually categorized as Hispanic White or Hispanic Other.

High-resolution images available upon request.

Dustin Cable is a Policy Associate at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service where he conducts research on topics that lie at the intersection of demographics, politics, and public policy.