More than half of the data in FRED can be displayed in choropleth maps, which is a type of data visualization where geographical areas are colored differently according to the range of their data values. The contours of the geographical areas in FRED maps represent political and statistical boundaries. Political boundaries shape the counties, states, and nations we’re familiar with. But what is a statistical boundary? Who draws them? How did those boundaries come to be?
Statistical boundaries are groupings of smaller geographies, such as counties, or states, that are drawn by data collection organizations like the US Census and the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) to facilitate the presentation and analysis of statistical and economic information.
The FRED map above shows data on the number of people residing in the US during 2022. The BEA organizes them into eight regions: New England, Mideast, Great Lakes, Plains, Southeast, Southwest, Rocky Mountain, and Far West.
Each region represents groupings of states with similar economic and social conditions. This classification was drawn after the 1950 Census to group states with similar economic and social indicators. You can learn more about the process of drawing BEA regions here.
Economic and social conditions change over time, so certain statistical boundaries are periodically revised. Research can be used to draw alternative boundaries for regional economic data geographies. You can read about an alternative definition of economic regions here.
Where can you go next using FRED maps? Read this short essay to learn more about data geographies in FRED.
How this map was created: In FRED, search for “Resident Population in the Plains BEA Region.” Click on “View Map.”
Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.