Class Projects - Spring 2012

Disparity Mapper

A visualization tool for understanding socio-economic disparities among neighborhoods in a city.

What it does

The tool helps users see how indicators of wealth and privilege fluctuate across Chicago’s 77 unique community areas, and ties each of them to race and ethnicity. The base map, created by Bill Rankin at Radical Cartography, displays a dot density layer to illustrate the distribution of race and ethnicity in Chicago. One dot represents 2,500 people; each color represents a different race or ethnicity.

The Disparity Map generates additional layers using U.S. Census data regarding income, education and housing. Once the information is aggregated by community area, users can select one or more disparity filters and the map will rank the communities from most to least disadvantaged. The most disadvantaged areas appear in dark red, while the least are shaded light red.

By juxtaposing heat maps of economic data and a dot density map of racial statistics, the map tells a compelling story about Chicago demographics that would be hard to convey using text alone. The data are stored in a Google Fusion table, so users can easily upload new data sets to display other disparity markers on the map and create their own visualizations. The map uses JavaScript to process the data in the client’s browser, eliminating the need for an external server. 


Initial Concept: Rich Gordon and Zach Wise

Student Team: Sam Fansler (computer science), Marguerite McNeal (journalism), Sean Wang (computer science)

Faculty Guidance: Rich Gordon, Zach Wise, and Darnell Little