Map: How RI would look if its towns were sized by population

Maps are sometimes as deceiving as they are revealing.

Take this map of Rhode Island:

Which places grab your eye? Burrillville, Glocester, Coventry, West Greenwich, Exeter – the geographically large places in the western part of the state that cover a lot of land.

But anybody who knows anything about Rhode Island knows those five communities aren’t where the vast majority of Rhode Islanders live. Their combined population of 73,104 residents is less than half the size of Providence’s and slightly smaller than Warwick’s or Cranston’s.

That’s where another type of map can come in handy – a cartogram, in this case a population cartogram, which rescales political jurisdictions to reflect how many people live in them. (Cartograms have become popular with Democrats who don’t like the sea of red they see when they look at national election results.)

Happily, the good folks at The Providence Plan – which just celebrated its 20th anniversary – have the tools and the data to create a population cartogram for Rhode Island. Rebecca Lee, assistant director of ProvPlan’s information group, created this one for using 2010 U.S. Census data:

(Thank you to The Rhode Island Foundation’s Jessica David and ProvPlan’s Andrew Bramson for their help.)

  • snow

    Love the cartogram–great visual tool.

    (Ted, you should place a map of RI next to the cartogram for context)

    • Ted Nesi

      Good call, Snow – I just added the regular map to the top of the post so people can compare and contrast. Thanks!

  • snow

    I’m surprised Central Falls is so small considering the population.

  • GaryM

    This explains how wasteful laws like RI’s affordable housing laws are forced down our throats.

    See for example the proposed taxpayer subsidized affordable waterfront development in Barrington called Palmer Pointe (which includes a proposed kayak launch).

    No wonder we are going broke, rated as the second worst managed state in the nation, not to mention a pariah to the business community.

  • Sim

    Lincoln Chafee should learn to play SIMCITY.
    Build attractions to increase population evenly.

  • Sam Zurier

    This is an interesting concept, but I do not think the scale is accurate. For example, Providence (180,000) has more than twice as many people as Cranston (80,000), but they appear to be close to the same size in this map. Cranston also looks much larger than Pawtucket (71,000)than the populations indicate, and large than Warwick (82,361) which has more people. Also, it looks as if Johnston is larger than North Providence, though the reverse is true.

  • Bob Petrone

    My first thought after looking at the cartogram is – yes RI should look into regionalization (North, Central and Southern regions). We simply can’t afford 39 of anything. There is too much duplication of services.

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