Where we are: Mapping Chicago’s racial divisions

May 9, 2012

Bill Healy

Ever look at a demographic map of Chicago and wonder how we came to be so segregated?

Bill Rankin wants us to think more critically when we look at such maps – and his work challenges the idea that racial and ethnic divisions have hard edges.

Rankin is an assistant professor at Yale University who uses dots to graphically represent where people live. He says most maps use solid colors that make it seem like areas are homogenous with defined boundaries.

By using dots instead of clean edges, Rankin says his mapmaking method “immediately challenges the idea that neighborhoods are homogenous areas with sharp boundaries. My map highlights diversity instead of majority rule.”

Rankin’s maps are especially useful when looking at where neighborhoods transition between races.

Rankin says using solid colors “assumes that racial divisions will always be hard and abrupt and it makes it difficult to imagine or encourage greater mixing.”

“The way we make maps influences the way we think and the possibilities for planning and design,” he says.

Stay tuned to our series Race: Out Loud as we continue considering matters of race.

On Rankin’s map, each dot represents 25 people.

  • Pink represents white people.
  • Blue represents black people.
  • Green represents Asians.
  • Orange represents Hispanics.

 

 

Rankin’s maps use self-identification from the U.S. Census to map more than 70,000 individual blocks. To see more of his work, check out his website at www.radicalcartography.net or watch a 5-minute video of Rankin explaining his methodology here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pRcdMVkA3k

For two other visions of Chicago, check out these maps from the Encyclopedia of Chicago History -

Chicago’s Ethnic Mosaic in 2000

http://encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/3889.html

Chicago’s Ethnic Mosaic in 1980

http://encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/2989.htm

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