Choosing Geographic Units for Choropleth Rate Maps, with an Emphasis on Public Health Applications
Authors: Boscoe, Francis P.; Pickle, Linda W.
Source: Cartography and Geographic Information Science, Volume 30, Number 3, July 2003 , pp. 237-248(12)
Abstract:Choropleth maps are the most widely used map type for mapping rates, such as those involving disease, crime, and socioeconomic indicators. The essential step of choosing a geographic unit to map is often made in an ad hoc manner. Among the desirable characteristics of choropleth mapping units are high degree of resolution, homogeneity of population size, homogeneity of land area, observation of minimum population thresholds and land area thresholds, temporal stability and currency, compactness of shape, audience familiarity, data availability, and the functional relevance of the unit to the phenomena mapped. Because of the uneven distribution of human populations, no single geographic unit can meet all of these characteristics in practice, and a well designed choropleth map necessarily involves some compromise. We present guidelines for choosing geographic units that take into account the above criteria, considering 12 geographic units ranging from census blocks to states. Even allowing for differences in scale and purpose, some units confer clear advantages over others.
Document Type: Research article
Publication date: 2003-07-01
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