Nobody lives here: The nearly 5 million Census Blocks with zero population
A Block is the smallest area unit used by the U.S. Census Bureau for tabulating statistics. As of the 2010 census, the United States consists of 11,078,300 Census Blocks. Of them, 4,871,270 blocks totaling 4.61 million square kilometers were reported to have no population living inside them. Despite having a population of more than 310 million people, 47 percent of the USA remains unoccupied.
Green shading indicates unoccupied Census Blocks. A single inhabitant is enough to omit a block from shading
Quick update: If you’re the kind of map lover who cares about cartographic accuracy, check out the new version which fixes the Gulf of California. If you save this map for your own projects, please use this one instead.
The map tends to highlight two types of areas:
- places where human habitation is physically restrictive or impossible, and
- places where human habitation is prohibited by social or legal convention.
Water features such lakes, rivers, swamps and floodplains are revealed as places where it is hard for people to live. In addition, the mountains and deserts of the West, with their hostility to human survival, remain largely void of permanent population.
Of the places where settlement is prohibited, the most apparent are wilderness protection and recreational areas (such as national and state parks) and military bases. At the national and regional scales, these places appear as large green tracts surrounded by otherwise populated countryside.
At the local level, city and county parks emerge in contrast to their developed urban and suburban surroundings. At this scale, even major roads such as highways and interstates stretch like ribbons across the landscape.
Commercial and industrial areas are also likely to be green on this map. The local shopping mall, an office park, a warehouse district or a factory may have their own Census Blocks. But if people don’t live there, they will be considered “uninhabited”. So it should be noted that just because a block is unoccupied, that does not mean it is undeveloped.
Perhaps the two most notable anomalies on the map occur in Maine and the Dakotas. Northern Maine is conspicuously uninhabited. Despite being one of the earliest regions in North America to be settled by Europeans, the population there remains so low that large portions of the state’s interior have yet to be politically organized.
In the Dakotas, the border between North and South appears to be unexpectedly stark. Geographic phenomena typically do not respect artificial human boundaries. Throughout the rest of the map, state lines are often difficult to distinguish. But in the Dakotas, northern South Dakota is quite distinct from southern North Dakota. This is especially surprising considering that the county-level population density on both sides of the border is about the same at less than 10 people per square mile.
Finally, the differences between the eastern and western halves of the contiguous 48 states are particularly stark to me. In the east, with its larger population, unpopulated places are more likely to stand out on the map. In the west, the opposite is true. There, population centers stand out against the wilderness.
Ultimately, I made this map to show a different side of the United States. Human geographers spend so much time thinking about where people are. I thought I might bring some new insight by showing where they are not, adding contrast and context to the typical displays of the country’s population geography.
I’m sure I’ve all but scratched the surface of insight available from examining this map. There’s a lot of data here. What trends and patterns do you see?
- The Gulf of California is missing from this version. I guess it got filled in while doing touch ups. Oops. There’s a link to a corrected map at the top of the post.
- Some islands may be missing if they were not a part of the waterbody data sets I used.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
Block geography and population data from U.S. Census Bureau
Water body geography from National Hydrology Dataset and Natural Earth
Made with Tilemill
USGS National Atlas Equal Area Projection
Easter is coming up! And it’s a terrible time for pet store bunnies!
Rabbits are marketed as “easy”, short-lived, starter pets, especially during the Easter holidays, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth! A healthy, well cared for bunny can live just as long as the average cat or dog- 10-12 years!
What’s more, they have more complex needs than a cat or a dog. Rabbits are prey animals and do not behave or show affection in the same way as predators like cats and dogs; they don’t deal well with being outside-only animals; they can get sad if they’re on their own and don’t receive enough attention; and if they’re bought as a couple, they can start reproducing from as early as 5-6 months of age, and they can carry multiple litters at the same time!
They have a specialised diet (NOT carrots!), need a specialised living area (unless you want all your things to get chewed up!), and they need specialised vets! Caring for them costs as much as caring for a dog!
They’re a big responsibility!
Twitch Plays Pokemon is the wildest thing I have ever watched and I frankly can’t stop.
If you’ve been living under a rock (or you’re just not up on Pokemon news, that could be a thing, in which case, your life must be so very sad), there’s a Twitch chat room with far too many people in it undergoing what the creator refers to as a “social experiment.” Each person in the chat submits a command they want the player to do and, with a 20-30 second delay, the Pokemon Trainer does the command.
It’s made it the most frustrating game of Pokemon ever played but also the best. Because they’ve been playing for five days straight, have four badges, and have somehow maneuvered two cave mazes.
Due to the delay and trolls, we have often found our poor trainer opening his menu, checking his bag, and looking to the Helix Fossil he acquired in Mount Moon.
Which of course, does nothing.
But in the middle of a Pokemon battle, better open my bag and check on the Helix Fossil.
About to cut down a tree. Better open my bag and check on the Helix Fossil.
I’m trying to enter this cave. Gosh, I need to make sure I haven’t dropped my Helix Fossil.
The people in the chat room have come to the conclusion that the Helix Fossil is an artifact of the Pokemon Trainer’s religion and that his ultimate goal is to resurrect Omanyte from the fossil.
Oh yes, they’ve brought religion into the game.
Even to the point where, when players in the chat were discussing that they needed a Pokemon to learn Surf, some had said “Let’s just wait until we get a Lapras later in the game. That just gets handed to us and will be much easier to do and we won’t run the risk of needing to deposit anybody in the PC and accidentally releasing anybody.” (We’ve already accidentally released our starter, so our current strongest Pokemon is a Pidgeot we call Based Pidgeot or Bird Jesus)
Others said “Let’s pick up the Eevee from Celadon Town! We’ll go to the Department Store, buy a Water Stone, and get a Vaporeon! It will be much better.”
We wasted all of our money on 8 Poke Dolls and an accidentally purchased Fire Stone.
Flareon has been called a heretic in this game.
Flareon is literally Satan to these players.
You weren’t there for the Celadon Department Store, okay. We got lost in there for one whole day and I watched it happen. It was awful. The work we put into getting this dumbass Flareon was awful.
So, we had to deposit Flareon in the PC because he was utterly useless. Which was when we accidentally released our Charmeleon.
The players determined this was simply what the Helix Fossil wanted and we had to trust in our Bird Jesus and never follow false gods again. Just let Lapras happen. Trust in the Helix Fossil.
Now, the players had been stuck in Rocket Hideout on those damn moving arrows for exactly two days. So the creator instated a chatroom based vote where you could decide on anarchy—the way we had been playing the whole time with individual players participating in a free-for-all—or democracy.
If 75% of the players had agreed on one form of governing, that was the system we were currently using in chat.
Democracy involves each player submitting a command and the game tallying to see which action is voted for most and popular vote wins.
This game has user-inserted religion and now creator inserted government.
The players spend so much time arguing over which form of government to use that we often get nowhere.
This is the weirdest virtual reality based Japanese RPG I have ever seen.
I have no idea what kind of social experiment the person who created this chat room is trying to do—they wish to remain anonymous—but this is positively delicious mayhem and I may never see this many people excited about a game made in 1996 again.
Myth & Reality
Does the barking city dog
know it is a cliché?
Will someone now knock over
some trash cans and send an ornery cat
screeching that stock,
poor cat sound into the night?
All we need to complete our
Authentic Urban Neighborhood
is children playing in
the improvised proletarian fountain
of an opened fire hydrant,
everybody’s laundry drying
on shared, street spanning clothes lines,
and jazz music.
The hinterlands have become a dictatorship
second only to Mubarak’s Egypt,
and in the promised land,
Canaanites have taken up residence
“God…has promised this land
to our forefathers.
We are now here to claim our inheritance,
and we ask you to leave peacefully.”
And so, now cleansed,
is on the up-swing,
as they say.
that dog has a fever
and is wading through the sea foam
of an ocean of artisanal flat breads
and contaminated ground water
the kids are on their bikes
snatching the phones of permanent tourists
made in a factory in Shenzhen
where workers have the comfort
of knowing the boss will always be there
to keep you from falling
the people across the street
are living in a tasteful rowhouse
with Authentic ahistorical exposed brick
and have a very nice washer-dryer of their own
and jazz has become
white people’s music.
WHAT IS HAPPENING
The guy in the sleeping bag wiggling around
The two people in the front wearing one shirt.
Are we really not going to talk about the guy in the back who is attached to another guy’s back while spinning?
I DIDN’T EVEN SEE THAT ONE.
WHAT ABOUT THE GUY THAT FALLS OUT OF THE WINDOW
I think Harlem Shake videos are hilarious still.
what about the guy bashing his head against the wall?
All that really matters is the weather
Even though he has no spine,
the court philosopher,
who communes with new clouds
in pursuit of old matter,
who doesn’t care who signs his check
as long as he is left to his work,
who resigns himself to his penitential keep
for this betrayal,
has a point.
The guillotine may be a better friend
but for now all he can see
is that blade of grass
that gets cut down every May.
But beyond fear,
what does regime change mean
to a planet of rocks?
After the hands that wrote it have decomposed
and the wealth that funded it has disintegrated
and the power that commissioned it
has ceased to be recognized,
what will matter about a book
except for its words?
What a conservative imagination must you have
to voice such fears!
All depression the child of an abortive rebellion!
Of course the philosopher of the court has a point,
but philosophy is just applied confusion.
As you mumble an affirmative
which might have been sincere
but I hear with raised eyebrows
and a forced smile—
when something’s not tied down
someone must have untied it.
I’ve never seen the benefit in doubt.
as you mumble what an hour ago
might have started an argument—
not in-itself but because
clearly you meant to untie it
and as you mumble once more,
and then again,
as you process a familiar anxiety
which might have been triggered
an hour ago when I asked if
you liked my song,
and as I’m sitting up next to you,
because I don’t have to be at work
until 10 tomorrow
two lights are pulsing in the distance
and I can’t tell if they’re approaching
or just in the wind.
I stumble in and out of your eyes
like a newborn foal.
I’m not shy and I’m not smitten
(My mother taught me that word
but told me I shouldn’t use it
around my friends because its
old fashioned); I just
don’t speak your language and
I’m terrified of your smile.
The last time I could stand up
straight in front of you I was in
Catholic school (Mom was a
teacher so we
didn’t have to pay tuition).
The problem is defenselessness has
diminishing evolutionary returns
once you stop being a baby or cat
Everyday you prop yourself up
and hope no one notices the brace.
I learned they already tested me
when I was little and it came back
Its funny how sometimes you hope you’re sick