Infographic: A Map Of Racial Segregation In America

A pointillism map of every person in the country makes U.S. Census data look like a watercolor painting.

This map has exactly 308,745,538 dots. It’s a painstakingly specific number, taken from the 2010 U.S. Census. While the ebb and flow of populations means that exact number is different today, the insanely meticulous idea holds up. Every single one of us–categorized by race–is represented as less than a mini-pixel, in a layered composition that creates the softly smudged patterns of color seen here.


Dustin Cable at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service created the Racial Dot Map, drawing his initial inspiration from a black-and-white population map made by the MIT Media Lab.

Both maps elegantly show the clusters of activity around urban centers, which do a spidery fade into white once you leave the big eastern cities and before you get to California. But Cable’s map incorporates the race of each person, a layer of data that grows all the more riveting as you zoom in. On the map, the white population is represented in blue, African-Americans are seen in green, Asians in red, Hispanics in orange, with all other categories coded as brown. The infographic makes the racial segregation of certain parts unmistakable–Chicago is a clear example, where strict blocks of color radiate westward from Lake Michigan. In other regions, like the Bay Area or New York, neighborhoods begins to look like pastel crayon sketches. “The blending of colors in integrated regions added another visual dimension I wasn’t expecting,” Cable tells Co.Design.

But even in the zones seemingly easy to categorize as homogenous or mixed, a closer look can surprisingly overturn the information. As the map’s website points out, a dense mass of purple or teal may appear to show a predominantly white city. But if you zoom in on, say, Minneapolis, distinct pockets of Asian, black, and white communities start to materialize. “The nice thing about this map is that it elegantly, and beautifully, conveys a lot of demographic data in a small space.”

Read more about the Racial Dot Map here.

About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.