Housing with Mortgages

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Why We Love It

Home ownership is a major driver in the US economy. Maps of this subject have been created from Census data since the 1800s, when home mortgages were the exception, not the rule. We love that this map lets you explore the subject of home ownership in the US in an interesting way—in terms of housing and population diversity. You can get a broad view of states or zoom into your city.

Why It Works

Like a good story this map gives more and more detail as you go. It works as a multiscale experience as you zoom in, showing data from state to county to tract to block group. Darker colors represent higher values, while lighter colors represent lower values. The average class color is neutral. At each scale, a simple pop-up shares a few key statistics and displays a chart of housing by type of ownership.

Important Steps

In ArcMap, analyze the patterns at the smallest level of geography (block groups).

Anchor the map’s classifications around the mean value at the block group level, using one and two standard deviations around the mean to set break points for the other classes.

Choose a color palette to emphasize the high values. Use qualitative terms like high, average, and low to put numeric values into a context.



The data shown is from the US Census Bureau SF1 and TIGER datasets for 2010.


Thematic classifications are centered around US average. The center classification is “average” and break points are based on one-half standard deviation around the mean.


It should take 12 hours total to prepare the data, analyze the statistics, set up multiscale renderers and publish as a cache tile service.


As you zoom into the map, a subtle gray stroke is added to the polygon boundaries to delineate the county, tract, and block group boundaries without allowing them to dominate the map.


The boundaries of the polygons were cleaned up (for example, selected rivers and lakes were also erased from the boundaries) to ensure that only land areas are shaded by the thematic color.

More Information

Map Author

Jim Herries

Jim Herries

@jherries | LinkedIn

Applied geographer, map curator for Living Atlas of the World and Urban Observatory. I work with talented people to make better maps by eliminating the noise and increasing the signal.

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