March 01, 2010

Rich and Poor Placemarks

So what happens when you search for user generated placemarks containing the words rich and poor? We didn't know but now we do.

Overall the world of user generated data seems to be a fairly rich place. Which is not altogether surprising since the ability to even create a Google placemark (access and ability to use a computer) suggests a certain level of affluence in a world where half the population lives on less that $2.50 a day. That's one reason why much of the globe doesn't have any placemarks at all.

Global Map of Rich and Poor

So it makes most sense to more closely examine East Asian countries of Japan, South Korea (note the clear difference with North Korea) and Taiwan are mostly spotted with "rich" placemarks. Likewise in China (which doesn't have many placemarks in general, a topic for another posting) "rich" is associated with the wealthy coastal regions such as the economic powerhouse of Shanghai, Fuzhou and Ghangzhou.

East Asian Map of Rich and Poor

Moving westward one sees that Europe is much more placemarked (is that even a word?) in general than Asia. But within this, there are interesting patterns as one moves south, east and north from the historic core of Europe. France, the Benelux countries, Germany and Italy systematically have more placemarks referencing rich than poor. But as one moves into the areas of Spain/Portugal and Greece/Turkey, the pattern becomes more varied. There are both fewer placemarks in general and those that do exist are more likely to have references to poor. Perhaps the most striking example is Britain with the core region around London tagged as rich and as one moves northward there is an increasing amount of placemarks referencing poor.

European Map of Rich and Poor

The pattern in the North American context is much less clear. One can see the Northeast (stretching from Massachusetts to DC) is primarily tagged as rich. This tendency toward rich is mostly maintained along the entire coastline. Moving inland, the patterns become much less clear, with the rest of the country seeming to be a nearly equal combination of rich and poor.

U.S. Map of Rich and Poor


  1. how can the usa have so many wealthy people in it & ow the rest of the world trillians of dollars, and be going through a recession, and have have so many people un-employed? check out my blog if you get some time. :)

  2. Very interesting. Have you done this for crops, eg wheat or rice? It might be an interesting way of mapping the distribution of agricultural systems...

  3. I'd like to see it done for the crops too, although it looks pretty speckled and intertwined, I'm wondering if there isn't some other underlying pattern...

  4. I guess once you got the data it shouldn't be complicated. And there are some ground data to look at for validity of such distributions, aren't there?... worth of taking a look.

  5. What a super blog post, did you like mine in response??

  6. Thanks for the suggestions. We have crops on the list of search terms as well as minerals. It will likely be awhile before we post any maps as we've built up quite a backlog.

  7. The gap between rich and poor seems to be an insoluble problem, even in 'developed' countries.

    There's plenty of wealth in the world, but our social and political systems have not evolved sufficiently.

  8. A lot of the Red states sure look blue.

  9. And rich and poor are very relative. Poor in the US and Europe could easily be rich in other parts of the world. Beyond that, user generated placemarks may not reflect actual wealth, but perception of wealth.

    1. Of course but those words are still being used where it counts apparently. You couldn't say those colours are in a random pattern could you?

      This should help answer.

  10. Most of the worlds richest men live in America with some in Europe, 3 in South Africa and some Chinese, according to the latest polls

  11. This is very reflective of what I know of Europe... Particularly UK where very rich people live near very poor people.
    Actually US, Israel and UK are respectively #4, #5 and #7 in the income inequality charts of the OECD 34 members after Chile, Mexico and Turkey, and this shows actually very well in the world map.
    In fact a clear pattern can be seen in the developed countries (most data) between those embedded in neo-liberalism and more socialist ones.