Th_s Lan_ Is Yo_r L_nd

Th_s Lan_ Is Yo_r L_nd” is an interactive United States map that controls a music player—choose any point on the map and you will hear the popular American folk song “This Land Is Your Land.” But the sound will be periodically muted, in proportion to the percentage of children living in poverty within the county at that point on the map. On average, about one out of five children in the US live in poverty. In some counties, fewer than one in twenty live in poverty, while in others three out of five live in poverty. What does it sound like when these children are left out?

Click here to explore the map.

This data art piece encourages people to explore child poverty statistics from the Census Bureau’s Small Area Income & Poverty Estimate data for US counties in 2012. Experiencing proportions like 20% or 60% through sound makes one keenly aware of just how much is missing.

I remember first hearing “This Land Is Your Land” in an elementary school music class. I was probably about six years old at the time, living in a county where currently one out of three children grow up in poverty. I’ve always loved the song. In working out the idea for this piece, I sought to communicate how many of the children in the wealthiest nation in the world are systematically excluded from our nation’s opportunities and prosperity.

The choropleth map is based on Mike Bostock’s great choropleth example. It uses the D3 and TopoJSON JavaScript libraries, and the HTML5 audio element/API. Some simple data processing was done with Perl.