Beauty is in the eye of the information beholder. In this case, researchers pictured US immigration census data in terms of tree rings. That inspiration won Northeastern University colleagues Pedro Cruz, John Wihbey, Avni Ghael and Felipe Shibuya two Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards last year. Their work titled Simulated Dendrochronology of U.S. Immigration, 1790-2016 has the most attractive portrayal of census data I’ve ever seen. Gone are the lined lists, the patriarchal households, the skin color categories. Instead, groups of 100 immigrants from a region of the globe are visually represented as a colored dot in the decade they arrived in the United States (decade=tree ring, dendrochronology of the title). Canada, Europe, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia or Oceania, each have a signature color: dark blue, green, red, orange, purple, pink, and turquoise blue.
When I look at the mix of colors in a unified whole of a tree trunk cross section, the populations moving in across the decades look balanced. Immigration looks positive, natural, and beneficial. For a really interesting look at this work, play the Vimeo video that shows ring-by-ring development in ten year spans.
This data does not include every population, the video is limited to those who arrived after 1830, of their own free will. Since the African Americans who were enslaved and the Native American Indians who already lived here when Europeans arrived were not immigrants, they are not included in this graphic. I look forward to future work by the Northeastern University team that portrays their history.
What do you see when you look at these tree rings of US immigration history? What is the history of immigration in your country? In your family?
Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco. And gracias to my high school friend, Karen Swallen, for bringing this beautiful information to my attention! Olé! -Rebecca