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GIS in Demographics: Visualizing Population Growth & Western Migration Over a 200-Year Period

By Justin Sorensen

GIS (Geospatial Information Systems) are utilized by many fields and industries throughout the world. To highlight some of these fields, our Map Monday releases for the 2019 Spring Semester will provide examples of ways GIS can be employed within the work performed by such professionals.

For this map release, we will look at an example of GIS in Demographics.

Visualizing Population Growth & Western Migration Over a 200-Year Period

The field of demographics takes a statistical approach to the study of population, offering an analytical approach that can be applied to society and groups throughout the world. These analytics are broken down into select criteria including: age, education, ethnicity, size, distribution, and migration to name a few. Generally, this type of data is presented in a database format, with spreadsheet, columns, and rows representing information for locations throughout the world. While the data provides valuable information, the incorporation of GIS technology allows the information to be visualized spatially, expressing the data in ways a traditional spreadsheet cannot.

                              Animation 1 – Choropleth Map                                                            Animation 2 – Dot-Density Map








Click on an image to play the animation

Take for instance the study of population growth over time. The United States Census Bureau has released population numbers every 10-years for each county throughout the United States. Wouldn’t it be great to see the growth of population over time and visualize the western migration of settlers to our country? With GIS, this process becomes a reality.

The Map Monday release for this week presents (2) geospatial animations representing population numbers for individual countries over a 200-year period (1800-2000). The first animation depicts the growing population numbers utilizing a choropleth map (a type of map utilizing differences in color to represent quantities of a select location). The second animation depicts the same information utilizing a dot-density map (a type of map utilizing symbols to represent the presence of a feature within a select location).

Each of the animation and visualization types offers a different perspective of the data, but working together brings life to the data as the story of population growth and western migration are visually presented.

Interested in learning more about GIS in other fields? Check out our collection of past Map Monday releases @

About Map Monday from GIS Services:

Throughout the semester, GIS Services will be releasing bi-weekly maps on a variety of topics, demonstrating ideas and uses for incorporating geospatial technology into research and projects you are developing. To view our collection of maps, projects, or to learn more about the geospatial services offered through the J. Willard Marriott Library, please visit the GIS Services website @

Happy Mapping!

Justin Sorensen | GIS Specialist
Creativity & Innovation Services / GIS Services

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