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 WPRI.com using 2010 U.S. Census data:

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

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