Articles in North America
Honesty, like other personality traits, is notoriously difficult to test, let alone map. A rather ingenious new study attempted to measure honesty in an unusual way. Instead of using questionnaires that ask respondents whether they (or their behaviors) fall under a certain rubric, this study examined the behavior directly. The study, conducted by the makers of Honest Tea, involved setting up an unmanned booth with bottles of their product on display. Customers were asked to use the honor system and leave $1 for each bottle of tea they took. The percentage of people who paid for their drink in each state could easily be calculated.
To follow up on the previous GeoCurrents post on the geography of first names, this post will examine that of surnames. The first map on the left shows the most common European surnames by country. Some interesting patterns emerge here. The geography of surnames in the US is considered as well.
As a university lecturer, I noticed that certain first names are common in different cohorts of students. A few years ago, I would often have two or three Jessicas in my classes, then it was Ashleys, then Jessicas made a come-back. This personal hunch is confirmed by a series of maps, published recently by Jezebel.com and reproduced at the bottom of this post. Based on data from the Social Security Administration, these maps show the most popular names for girls by state, for babies born from 1960 through 2012. While some parents select unusual names for their kids, most opt for safe or fashionable choices. As with clothing, certain names sweep the country, stay popular for a while, and then fall out of fashion, rarely to return.
Over the past several years, the campaign for marijuana legalization has surged ahead in the United States. Colorado and Washington have voted for full legalization, and a number of other states now allow the consumption of medical cannabis. Yet the U.S. federal government still regards the substance as a “Schedule 1” drug, more dangerous and less useful than cocaine or …
A few years ago, the New York Times published a fascinating interactive map depicting where various foreign-born groups have settled in the United States over the years. Immigrants are categorized by country of birth, with the colors representing countries or regions of origin. History of several immigrant groups can be read off those maps.
The intense political polarization of the United States is most clearly reflected by the dysfunctional nature of the federal government. At a more local scale, it is seen as well in the growing movement to create new states by splitting existing ones. Most of these cases involve the desire of people in rural, conservative counties to secede from the more …
Detective fiction is an increasingly popular genre with global appeal that tends to evokes a certain geographical sensibility. In exploring the geography of this genre, it is helpful to start with the geography of murder, as detective novels typically revolves around homicide investigations. As revealed by the global map of murder rates in an earlier GeoCurrents post, the United States as a whole is slotted into a medium-low category. However, as can be seen from the GeoCurrents‑made US murder rate map, a great deal of variation can be found the among states. While there are clear and persistent regional patterns in murder, a reader of mystery novels, unfamiliar with the actual statistics, would get a markedly different picture.
In an op-ed piece entitled “What You (Really) Need to Know,” published in the New York Times in January 2012, Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard University, called on universities to reduce investments made to teach students foreign languages. Yet the school he used to lead recently moved in the opposite direction, adding instruction in the Breton language at Harvard’s Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures. To do so, a collaboration agreement has been signed between Harvard and Rennes 2 University in the capital of the French region of Brittany, where Breton is spoken.
Conventional wisdom holds that military service disproportionately attracts men and women from disadvantaged backgrounds, many of whom are members of minority groups. Many people believe that troops enlist primarily because they have few options, not because they want to serve their country. Others believe that the war in Iraq has forced the military to lower its recruiting standards. A report from Heritage Foundation published in 2008 shows this conventional wisdom is far from the truth.
A recent trip to Tromsø, Norway reminded me that there is nothing more beautiful and life-affirming than spring in the Arctic: the return of the sun and the melting of the deep layer of snow allow the first fragile flowers to bloom. It is not this delicate beauty, however, that has recently attracted international attention to the circumpolar region. Six countries—China, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore—exhibited renewed interest in the Arctic and were granted observer status in the Arctic Council during its May 15, 2013 meeting in Kiruna, Sweden.
Certain kinds of maps seem to have a perennial interest with the educated American reader. Maps pertaining to regional dialectal divisions are a prime example, as is evident from our earlier discussion of Rick Aschmann’s map of North American English dialects. A new set of maps of American English dialects produced by Joshua Katz, a Ph.D. student in statistics at North Carolina State University, have recently received widespread media attention. Originally published in Abstract, a North Carolina State research blog, these maps serve to visualize the data collected by Bert Vaux and Scott Golder in the early 2000s.
When it comes to people who speak French at home, California has only the third largest population of all U.S. states. California’s francophone population shrank by about 4% between 2000 and 2005. But historically, the situation was quite different, as French used to be an important and widely spoken tongue in the state.
A recent article in Health Affairs by David Kindig and Erika Cheng examined trends in male and female mortality rates from 1992–1996 to 2002–2006 in 3,140 US counties. What they found is a worrisome trend of female mortality on the rise in 42.8% of counties. The situation with male mortality rates is much better, increasing in only 3.4% of counties.
A few years ago, geographers from Kansas State University tried to map the spatial distribution of an abstract notion, that of evil. Geography research associate Thomas Vought and his colleagues used certain statistical measurements to quantify transgressions and came up with a county-by-county map purporting to show various degrees of the “seven deadly sins” in the USA. These maps are instructive as they highlight and juxtapose a number of interesting social issues.
A recent study, conducted by researchers at the University of Vermont, once again looked into the question of where happy people live. Previous studies on the geography of personality, discussed in earlier GeoCurrents posts, were interview-based attempts to assess permanent personality traits (which may even be encoded genetically). This recent study looks at the state of happiness, temporary as it may be for any given person.