What Happened to the NC-SC Boundary?

You would not think that a boundary between two states could get lost, but that is what happened to the line separating North and South Carolina. When residents, tax collectors, and others wanted to know the precise location of the boundary, no one had an answer. According to “New SC-NC Border Will Affect Some Residents” in The State,

South Carolina and North Carolina have been working quietly since 1994 on resurveying their border. To avoid having to get congressional approval of the border, which would cost more, the states had to retrace their original boundary from the 1700s.

Researchers searched for clues in state archives and country courthouses. In some border areas, stone monuments—many of which have been rediscovered—marked the boundary. In other stretches, the 18th-century surveyors marked the boundary on trees that were cut down or died long ago. Eighteen years and $980,000 later, the survey process is nearing completion, according to The State article. A few border residents may find themselves in a new state, which would bring new addresses, phone numbers, driver’s licenses, tax rates, and even utility companies.

National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday had a little fun by pointing out a culinary dilemma for Carolinians who find themselves on the wrong side of the border.

For residents and state officials, that’s meant headaches like who pays which state’s taxes, and which children go to which school districts and what kind of sauce will be on my barbecue? North Carolinians are known to turn up their noses at a plate of South Carolina’s mustard-based barbecue. And South Carolinians are equally disdainful of the vinegar sauce touted by their northern neighbors.

International boundaries, especially when they are disputed, receive a lot of attention in political geography. This story demonstrates that even state and local boundaries bring about important cultural, political, and economic implications.

—Tim Hill

Geography of Government Benefits

I have previously expressed appreciation for news organizations that use well-designed, content-rich maps to illustrate spatial patterns in the stories they cover, and another example recently caught my eye.

Government Benefits Map

New York Times

The New York Times recently published “Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It”, a lengthy article on the growth of government benefits for senior citizens, veterans, the disabled, children, and others—a  hotly debated topic in this election year. Accompanying the article is The Geography of Government Benefits, a map showing county-level data illustrating per capita income from government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, income support, veterans’ benefits, and unemployment insurance. The interactive maps allows you see not only geographic patterns but also change over time. The maps present data from the years 1969, 1979, 1989, 1999, and 2009.

Check out your own county. You won’t be able to resist comparing it to neighboring areas and viewing the amount of change over the years. Trying to explain these patterns is at the heart of geography.

Whether it’s an ambitious project involving five decades of government data or a story about a local highway project, we should urge news reporters and editors to include maps, which will help tell stories more effectively.

—Tim Hill

Cities Less Segregated, Study Shows

Two fellows at the Manhattan Institute have analyzed data from 13 American population counts to track the rise and, more recently, the decline of racial segregation in American cities. The report, The End of the Segregated Century: Racial Separation in America’s Neighborhoods, 1890-2010, by Edward Glaeser and Jacob Vigdor presents four main findings:

  1. The most standard segregation measure shows that American cities are now more integrated than they’ve been since 1910.
  2. All-white neighborhoods are effectively extinct.
  3. Gentrification and immigration have made a dent in segregation.
  4. Ghetto neighborhoods persist, but most are in decline.

The report uses the census data to provide a very informative historical survey of racial segregation in American cities. Do the report’s key findings match your observations in your community?

—Tim Hill

The Next Supercontinent

Amasia Map

The continents as they appear today and as they may appear in about 100 million years. Maps: Mitchell et al, Nature.

Move over Pangaea, your days as Earth’s most famous supercontinent may be coming to an end—in about 100 million years. That’s the theory put forth by Ross Mitchell, a geologist at Yale University, in a new study published in the journal Nature.

In the early 1900s Alfred Wegener famously proposed the idea that Earth’s tectonic plates are slowly moving around the planet. About 300 million years ago a single landmass, or supercontinent, called Pangaea was centered on the present-day location of West Africa. As the plates continued their slow drift, Pangaea broke apart and formed the continents and oceans we know today.

Mitchell’s research involving the magnetic orientation in ancient rocks led him to conclude that the continents are slowly moving northward and will eventually form a supercontinent centered on the Arctic. According to Mitchell, this tectonic plate movement will fuse the Americas and Eurasia, forming a new supercontinent called Amasia.

Mitchell discussed his research and supercontinent modeling on the February 9, 2012, Nature Podcast.

More on this topic:

‘Amasia': The Next Supercontinent? from All Things Considered on National Public Radio

—Tim Hill

African American History Month

African American Union Soldier

An unidentified Civil War soldier in a Union uniform with his wife and two daughters. Photo: Library of Congress.

February marks the annual celebration of African American History Month in the United States. The Library of Congress, National Archives, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum joined forces to create an African American History Month website which recognizes the many contributions of African Americans.

The theme for the 2012 celebration is “Black Women in American Culture and History.” The website presents features on slavery, the Civil Rights struggle, politics, African American culture and folklife, and arts and music. A special section provides resources and primary documents that are of special interest to educators.

To mark the month, the Census Bureau also compiled population statistics about the country’s black population.