Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rural Rust Belt: Atlas Of Rural And Small-Town America

Check out the new rural atlas website from the Economic Research Service arm of the USDA. I just lost an hour playing with the data. A little bit about the atlas from the mapmakers:

The Atlas allows users to create county-level maps showing the variation in key socioeconomic conditions across the United States. The first map, reproduced from the Atlas, depicts county-level unemployment, showing high rates in the Pacific Northwest, northern Michigan, and parts of the Southeast, compared with lower rates in the Great Plains and Intermountain West. Employment data in the Atlas show that many pockets of high unemployment also have large percentages of workers employed in manufacturing. ...

... The Atlas includes easy-to-use zoom and panning features; users may click on the scaling bar (upper left) for zooming or use a mouse to move around. The last map shows employment change since 2000 for South Carolina and vicinity, with nonmetro manufacturing counties highlighted. The concentration of employment loss over the past 10 years in counties dependent on manufacturing is clearly depicted.

Easy to use data visualizations are a blogger's best friend. On that note, I'll plug Aaron Renn's (The Urbanophile) Telestrian. I'm a subscriber and I can vouch for the product. I use it to analyze talent migration. Creating publishable quality maps is a snap and has saved me literally days of work time.

Back to the Rural Atlas, the legacy of manufacturing in nonmetro counties versus metro counties is a pattern worth discussing. Engineering economic transition in a nonmetro area would seem to pose unique challenges. If someone reading this is aware of studies that look into these issues, please let me know about them. I'd like to learn more about the rural (or semi-rural) Rust Belt.

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