A Map Of All The Divorces

Wednesday, October 09, 2013 - 02:21 PM

The hyperlocal site Patch has a history of strange dysfunction. But today's dysfunctional Patch story is exceptionally strange. As Romenesko reported, every single Patch outlet has been publishing maps of where divorced people live.

Readers are upset about this. They've pointed out that these maps seem to stigmatize divorced people. They've yelled at their local Patch editors, who've replied that this is a corporate-mandated decision.

I understand their outrage, and sympathize with it. Some of my best parents are divorced. But that outrage is obscuring the better story, which is how deeply strange these maps are. 

Try to imagine the kind of person who would even be interested in data about where the divorces in their neighborhood are taking place.

Is this someone who thinks that marriages are ruined because of environmental factors, and wants to avoid those environments? Or someone who really wants to date a divorcee, and is looking for the greatest concentration of them? Or is it someone who wants to know the best place to launch their divorce-themed business (shared-custody calendars, studio apartment rentals)?

Also, even if this person exists, anywhere, this data would be useless to them. Patch's divorce map shows divorces as a raw number, rather than divorces-per-capita.


If you look at Brooklyn, for instance, you see that there are a lot of divorces in places where people live, and very few divorces in places where people don't live. So the usefulness of these maps is that they demonstrate a correlation between the existence of human life and the probability that some of those humans will get divorced.

Look, there are a lot of things on the internet to get mad at, and if you want to get mad at this one, I won't stand in your way. But maybe this time we could agree to just point and Nelson Muntz-laugh at instead. 



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Comments [2]

chris from teaneck, nj

what a non-story. The data is too high level to be meaningful plus was available else where. Patch is simpy trying to understand it's local customers.

Why not research patch's coverage of controversail local issues, patch vs. local news paper advertising or how patch covers local politics.

again, non-story.

Oct. 13 2013 10:15 AM
John from Brooklyn, NY

It should be noted that these maps show data at the Census tract level, which are 'designed to be relatively homogeneous units with respect to population characteristics, economic status, and living conditions, census tracts average about 4,000 inhabitants." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Census_tract) Normalizing these data by overall population would change very little about the choropleth, since each tract has very similar populations.

Oct. 09 2013 11:43 PM

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by Meredith Haggerty. You can subscribe to the TLDR podcast here. You can follow our blog here. I tweet @manymanywords and @tldr.

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