Mapping The Real State Of America

A new atlas gives a sense of what's truly happening in America. We look at a few excerpts to see how much we're driving and what we're eating.

America is a mighty big country. It contains multitudes, and it can be hard to get a sense, sitting in, say, Montana, of what's happening thousands of miles away in Maine. The Real State of America Atlas by Cynthai Enloe and Joni Seager, released last week, is full of maps and graphics that can help quantify some of how we're doing as a country.

For instance, how is our driving? Driving is, as you can see, down from last year, as the recession and high gas prices pinch transportation plans. (Maybe everyone's taking their bikes and public transportation?) As you can see, states with major metropolitan areas tend to have less driving. In Oklahoma, the non-car options are presumably quite worse.

It's an interesting contrast between states that drive less and states that are fatter. The authors have also included a map of fruit consumption to contrast with this map of obesity. It seems that both driving less and eating more fruit could be related to weighing less. What's potentially most surprising is how many people in Washington, D.C. are eating fruit, beating even California, where much of the fruit in Washington, D.C. is likely from. This also surely plays into some stereotypes about New England and the Northeast, given how concentrated fruit consumption is. Make your own judgments.

It's easy to read stories in the newspaper about trends and statistics (or simply extrapolate from your own anecdotal experience), but maps like those in the book are the best way to see how that information actually plays out. In a country this big, there isn't any way of truly knowing what's happening without looking at the data

Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from THE REAL STATE OF AMERICA ATLAS: Mapping the Myths and Truths of the United States by Cynthia Enloe and Joni Seager

Copyright © 2011 by Cynthia Enloe and Joni Seager

 

Morgan Clendaniel can be reached by email or on Twitter.

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2 Comments

  • Fred Sanford

    These kinds of maps also show distinctions where they don't really exist.  The color scale makes it seem as if two states that are different colors are in totally different situations when they actually might be very similar.  If one state has 64% overweight adults ( 3.2M out of 5M) and another state has 65% (3.25M out of 5M) they would be colored differently when in reality they are in the same boat.

    That being said, I love pictures and charts. Maybe we should use heat maps without respect to state boundaries.