The Washington Post

25 maps and charts that explain America today

UPDATE/BONUS: Since this went up, we posted another map—this one of the popular languages throughout the country. Peel back the obvious English or Spanish and there’s a surprising amount of diversity in languages spoken.

At the start of every year, government agencies, think tanks and businesses release sets of data and reports charting the nation’s social, economic and demographic course. Individually, each release of data offers a narrow snapshot of a narrow issue — voter attitudes, migration, unemployment, an assessment of policies, etc. — but collectively they tell a broader story.

In just the first two months of the year, we here at GovBeat have already written dozens of posts looking at the state of the nation in maps and charts. Here are some highlights that explain who we are and how we live today (with links for those who want more):

1. Who’s most well off

Gallup’s well-being index.

Gallup’s well-being index relies on 55 metrics, including rates of obesity, produce consumption, smoking, depression and psychological fulfillment. Generally, the best-off states are in the Midwest and West while the worst are in the south. And there was quite a bit of a shakeup last year. Nineteenth-ranked North Dakota rose to the top spot, while 12th-ranked South Dakota took the second spot. After four years on top, Hawaii fell to the eighth spot. Read more at Gallup.

2. The top 1 percent have gained in every state

Top 1 percent’s share of income between 1979 and 2007.

The chart above shows just 10 states, but you get the picture: The richest one percent have gobbled up an increasingly large share of income during the past few decades, reversing an earlier trend toward income equality.

3. Big cities are less equal than the rest of the country

The rich are richer and the poor are poorer in the nation’s largest cities than the nation as a whole, according to the findings from the Brookings Institution. Just three — Denver, Seattle and El Paso — saw inequality shrink, marginally, since before the recession. For the rest, things got worse.

4. Where the millionaires are


More than six million households in the United States have liquid assets worth more than $1 million, according to new estimates that show the greatest concentrations of wealth in the United States are along the Interstate 95 corridor. (Click through for an interactive map.)

5. Where the breweries are

(Beer Institute)

The number of brewery permits issued last year soared to new all-time highs, with about a third concentrated in just four states — California, Washington, Colorado and Oregon — according to a beer industry trade group. Read the original story for a full state chart.

6. Where people are moving to and from

The map above comes from Atlas Van Lines and shows where their customers were headed last year. Most states had a steady balance of people coming and going, but the blue ones below are where the movement was mostly inbound and the yellow ones show states that were losing people faster than they were gaining them.

7. The 47 states where ‘conservatives’ outnumber ‘liberals’

Map shaded by the conservative advantage over liberals in each state. (Gallup) People who identify as “conservative” outnumber those who call themselves “liberals” in 47 states, according to a Gallup survey. But the map likely reveals more about language than politics, as the word “liberal” had long been — and some might argue still is — politically toxic.

8. The states whose legislatures are more partisan than Congress

This chart shows state legislature polarization with the dotted line in the middle representing the U.S. Congress. The half of state legislatures to the right of that line are more partisan — though many are unified by party so they’re at least more productive, too.

9. Where unemployment has recovered (sort of)

State unemployment dipped to post-recession lows in 29 states. But it’s a bit of a Pyrrhic victory (see next map).

10. Where long-term unemployment is at historic highs

Before the recession smashed the record, long-term unemployment peaked at 26 percent thirty years ago. But in 2013 it was higher than that in 41 states and D.C. It’s highest in D.C., New Jersey and Florida, where more than 45 percent of the jobless are long-term unemployed (i.e. unable to find work after about six months of looking).

11. Mapping the geographical digital divide

This Gizmodo map of average Internet speeds by congressional district shows how disparate access to the web is.

12. Where the recession never happened

There is a recovery underway, but it’s uneven, as depicted by the map above, from a report by the National Association of Counties. The darkest-blue counties never experienced a recession—as measured by economic output—while the lighter blue ones recovered by 2013. The grey ones are still working through their recoveries.

13. Where the Protestants are

In 29 states, Protestants account for at least half of the population. That’s true for Catholics in only one state: Rhode Island. That’s according to Gallup data. See five more maps that explain religious America.

14. The states that tax booze the hardest

Kentucky taxes wine the most; Tennessee leads on beer and Washington has the highest taxes on spirits.

Map: Wine Excise Tax Rates by State, 2014. (Tax Foundation)

Map: Beer Excise Tax Rates by State, 2014. (Tax Foundation)


15. The 8 states that ban educators from promoting homosexuality


States that prohibit educators from discussing homosexuality in a positive way or, in some cases, at all. (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network)

“No promo homo” states are those that prohibit educators from discussing homosexuality in a positive way or, in some cases, at all. States that prohibit enumeration are those that don’t allow local school districts from enacting policies aimed specifically at preventing bullying over sexual orientation or gender identity. (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network)

16. How felon voting policies restrict the black vote

Cartogram of disenfranchisement rates, 2010. (Sentencing Project) In Florida, more than one in five black adults can’t vote. Not because they lack citizenship or haven’t registered, but because they have, at some point, been convicted of a felony. More than 20 percent of black adults have lost their right to vote in Florida, Kentucky and Virginia, according to the Sentencing Project, a group that advocates for reforms to sentencing policy that reduces racial disparities.

17. The incredible shrinking blue-state advantage

The Democratic Party’s advantage in the states was halved last year, continuing a dramatic multi-year decline. A 30-state advantage in 2008 is now down to 3. (That is, Dems can claim three more states in their corner than Republicans can. But that’s down from 2008 when they claimed 30 more states than their counterparts.)

18. The 30 states where abortion rates are at multi-decade lows

The map above shows how long it’s been since each state has had an abortion rate as low as in 2011. The darkest red states reflect those where the 2011 abortion rate was the lowest since at least 1976. In 30 states, abortion rates are at their lowest levels in at least 30 years, according to new data from the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights. In nine of those states, rates are the lowest since records began in 1973.

19. Where women are most and least represented in state legislatures

Just under one in four state legislators is a woman — a fact unchanged over the past five years.

20. Where low-income students lag behind

  Minority and poor students in most states seriously lag behind their peers when it comes to successfully completing Advanced Placement exams. The gap was largest in Louisiana, where low-income students make up 66.2 percent of the graduating class, but just 15.4 percent of successful exams. The gap between the two is larger than 30 percentage points in 24 states.

21. Which states plan best for the future

Virtually every state could do a better job at long-term fiscal planning, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Just 11 states earned high marks on a 10-point test of their ability to budget in the long-term, according to the fiscal policy group.

22. Where housing remains a serious problem

States in the lightest shades of red have more “deeply underwater” foreclosures than not. (Data unavailable for some states.) In at least 14 states, there are more deeply underwater mortgages than those in solid standing.

23. The 116 counties responsible for half the uninsured

Source: Associated Press

A new study conducted for The Associated Press shows that the Obama administration is best off focusing on signing up uninsured Americans in a relatively narrow geographic area: Half of non-senior adults without insurance live in just 116 of the nation’s 3,143 counties.

24. Record drought spreads to California


For three straight years, California’s farmers have been dealing with severe drought, with 2013 being the driest year on record. It’s a serious ongoing problem, and this year is expected to be just as bad.

25. What the closest pizza joints are

This map, courtesy of, shows which chain’s stores are closest to various parts of the country. Pizza Hut and Dominoes reign.

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