What does detailed map of racial data tell us?

race-population-mapAn amazingly detailed new map shows the location and race of every single U.S. citizen in 2010. It’s especially fascinating as we reflect on Martin Luther King Jr.’s legendary speech of 50 years ago.

On the map, a detail of the Wasatch Front shows just how white the area is, and where higher concentrations of Hispanics, blacks, Asians and other races are located.

For example, central Ogden shows a heavy concentration of Hispanic and other races, while the northern areas of the city and up into North Ogden are more of a mix.

In Salt Lake City, 700 East appears to mark a fairly vivid transition point from mostly white areas to the east and non-white areas to the west. West Valley City consists largely of well-mixed regions, with the northern part of the city composed of more heavily Hispanic zones.

The southern areas of the Salt Lake Valley down into northern Utah County are mostly white, with only Orem and Provo displaying a mix of non-white races.

Besides being a really interesting map to study, what does this data tell us? Why do people choose to live where they live? Does public policy have an impact on these choices? Certainly the segregation policies of the South and other states created mandated-by-law racial divisions in the first half of the 20th century, but what about now, after those policies have long since been abolished?

Does this map of the Wasatch Front indicate racism? Or are there other factors at play, such as economics, family ties, education and employment preferences and opportunities? Is it simply human nature? Humans tend to want to be around those who are like them, and that includes all of the factors above and, apparently, race itself. Why is it so common that those factors tend to line up along racial lines? For instance, why is it so rare for a white person to have a black brother-in-law who lives in the same neighborhood with the same socioeconomic status?

Are we less divided and more united now than in the past? Have policies such as affirmative action and university admission quotas helped or hurt? What about welfare policies — have they helped or hurt economic mobility? Is public education closing the gaps in education, employment and opportunity? And what effect, if any, do these policies have on family formation and stability?

These and other questions are important to ask 50 years after Dr. King said, “I have a dream ….”

To access the interactive map, head here.

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