There is a lot of data out there.
Visualizing Virginia is a project about making large amounts of information easier to digest in an efficient way. While reviewing ideas about how to present Virginia’s diverse regions (read about how we defined 8 regions for Virginia)and localities, we recognized that presenting summary statistics and looking only at regional trends would not show the whole picture. We wanted to also capture the unique stories of the many communities that make up Virginia. With this in mind, we developed seven visualizations that simultaneously reflect local, regional, and statewide data, so that readers can see the contours of a demographic dynamic in a locality, compare that dynamic to nearby localities and the region, and the regions overall to the state. The series of visualizations depict population size and growth, age, education, unemployment, income, and poverty for Virginia’s regions and localities.
Making Data More Accessible
Instead of presenting 133 separate charts representing each locality, Visualizing Virginia simplifies and synthesizes data into a single image and allows readers to:
- Find a specific locality of interest on a single page.
- Compare localities without searching through pages, providing crucial context more efficiently.
- Gain a deeper perspective of the larger geographic trends.
- Spot outliers and focus on them in further research.
What These Visualizations Reveal
These seven visualizations capture and display the diverse characteristics of Virginia’s 133 localities, how those localities aggregate into regions, and how the regions assemble into the Commonwealth as a whole. Collectively, these visualizations demonstrate clearly how statewide averages or data mask widely varying characteristics in local communities.
The age distribution chart shows us that population aging is highly uneven across the state. Populations are significantly older in Southside, Southwest, and Eastern regions (meaning they have fewer working-age or school-age individuals and more seniors). This upside-down age structure, primarily driven by outmigration of younger population and families, not only presents challenges of elderly support and care, but also explains why the workforce and school enrollment in these areas have been declining.
Click map for larger image
The income visualization reveals a startling reality – the gap between the highest and the lowest median household income among Virginia’s 133 localities is nearly $100,000. And, the lowest locality median household income in Virginia’s Northern region is still higher than the highest locality median household income in our Southwest and Southside regions.
Click chart for larger image
The educational attainment visualization highlights regional differences. In the Southwest and Southside regions less than 20 percent of the adult population have a bachelor degree or higher, reflecting both an older age structure of the area population and a less educated workforce. The Northern localities, especially those close to DC, by contrast, have achieved higher levels of educational attainment, indicating workforces that are much younger and more educated.
Click map for larger image
The goal of an effective data visualization is to allow patterns to emerge visually that are difficult to describe with text, or to identify by modeling. In creating Visualizing Virginia, our hope was to make demographic data more accessible and to inspire a deeper understanding of regional and state trends but also of the unique stories of our individual local communities.