America is the land of unequal opportunity. These 13 maps show how class, education, and health inequities all intersect — with nonwhite, rural areas hit especially hard.

  • Inequities in America literally overlap.
  • Disparities in health, income, education — they all map onto the same areas. 
  • Many of the hardest-hit areas are nonwhite and rural.
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At Insider, we make a lot of maps. And in my years of making dozens upon dozens of maps illustrating different aspects of American economic, social, and political life, I’ve noticed that many of them look strikingly similar. Maybe you’ve seen the pattern, too.

The coasts and other big cities are wealthy, healthy, and well-educated. But many rural areas, particularly in the South, face overlapping crises tied to economic, health, and social factors.

This mapmaking is part of what researchers call “economic geography,” or the study of how factors like business and personal wealth vary from place to place. It helps us understand how the places people live materially affect their lives.

It can show lots of things. In many parts of the country, decades of underinvestment have led to broad swaths of the map with low household incomes, high poverty rates, less education, poor health outcomes, and even a lack of access to services like high-speed internet. And all of these things intertwine.

Many of these areas are deeply rural. Big cities and their suburbs, especially on the affluent coasts, enjoy robust economies and their benefits, while many more sparsely populated areas remain economically marginalized. Many, but not all, of the hard-hit areas in the following maps have large populations of color, showing another dimension of the ongoing racial inequities we face.

Read on to see how many of America’s problems overlap.

This composite map, which overlays median household income, poverty, disability rates, and broadband internet access, shows the extent to which the same places in the country struggle with all these issues.

Understanding the overlap between economic, health, educational, and other disparities is a crucial step to solving those inequities. Seeing how they interact with one another, as in the maps above, can help with that understanding.


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