Ork Posters makes maps of cities with their neighborhoods. I have three: Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco. I was looking at them recently and noticed one thing these three cities have in common: the more centrally located neighborhoods are physically smaller than the outlying neighborhoods.
Is this a general trend? It’s hard to tell because neighborhoods don’t “officially” exist. Perhaps we can do something similar looking at states.
The first question is: what’s the “central” location to use? Since states have historically been formed from the capital, i. e. Washington, DC, I plotted land area against the distance from the state’s largest city to DC. (This was the driving distance as given on Google Maps, except for Hawaii where I used flight distance from gcmap.com.)
This confirms what you see on a map – states get bigger as you move away from the capital. There are basically two clusters:
- the “main” cluster stretching from Pennsylvania to California;
– the “northeastern” cluster, where states are smaller than you’d expect from their distance to DC.
The existence of this “northeastern” cluster suggests that it might have made more sense to use a point further north – Philadelphia or even New York – for these earlier states. These states were formed as colonies, before the United States had a capital or was even a thing – but New York and Philadelphia both had their turns as capital before Washington, DC existed.
As you probably could have guessed beforehand if you know anything about the United States, Texas, Alaska, and Hawaii are outliers.
More distant states turn out also to have lower population. (Not just lower population density.)
Incidentally, at the county level, Ed Stephan observed that some states have variation in county size and some don’t, and that much of this seems to be explainable by population density changes. So it is very possible that the observation that more remote states tend to be larger may hold because remoteness from DC, in the United States, is correlated with lower population density. That’s a fancy way of saying that as you go west there are less people, which if you ignore the western coast is true.
As for my original question: how would you answer it, given that there aren’t official definitions of neighborhoods?