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Using Genetic Algorithms to Create Multicriteria Class Intervals for Choropleth Maps

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During the past three decades a large body of research has investigated the problem of specifying class intervals for choropleth maps. This work, however, has focused almost exclusively on placing observations in quasi-continuous data distributions into ordinal bins along the number line. All enumeration units that fall into each bin are then assigned an areal symbol that is used to create the choropleth map. The geographical characteristics of the data are only indirectly considered by such approaches to classification. In this article, we design, implement, and evaluate a new approach to classification that places class-interval selection into a multicriteria framework. In this framework, we consider not only number–line relationships, but also the area covered by each class, the fragmentation of the resulting classifications, and the degree to which they are spatially autocorrelated. This task is accomplished through the use of a genetic algorithm that creates optimal classifications with respect to multiple criteria. These results can be evaluated and a selection of one or more classifications can be made based on the goals of the cartographer. An interactive software tool to support classification decisions is also designed and described.
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Keywords: choropleth; class intervals; genetic algorithms

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, The University of Iowa

Publication date: 2003-09-01

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