If We All Left to “Go Back Where We Came From”

Everyone comes from somewhere else.

The phrase confuses me. I was born in California. My mom was born in New York. “Go back where you came from.” Um, okay. I mean, I was headed home anyways. My house is just a few blocks away.

I grew up in a mostly non-Asian city, so I used to hear the phrase sometimes. Kids like to pick on the one who looks a little different. But these days, when I hear an adult say it to another adult, it catches me off guard. It doesn’t make sense.

You traverse an American’s family tree, and eventually you find an immigrant. And most of the time, you don’t have to go back that far.

So … what if everyone went back where they came from?

In the maps that follow, one dot represents one person in the population. Color represents race or ethnicity. Dot placement is random within block groups.

Based on data from the 2012-2016 American Community Survey, there were about 315 million people who lived in the 50 states or District of Columbia. Here are all of them. Each dot represents a person.

Imagine all 197.3 million non-Hispanic white people leave …

… and then 39.1 million black and 16 million Asian people leave …

… and then 51.7 million Hispanic and Latino people …

… and the 7.9 million non-native people who are some other race or mixed …

That leaves about 2.1 million Native American or Alaska Natives and 0.5 million Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. After that, it’s an empty shell of a country.

A simplified view, but you get the point. Everyone comes from somewhere.

Notes

  • I used R to make the dot density maps, following similar steps to the dot density map tutorial.
  • I’d been meaning to poke at this topic for a while, but the segregation maps by Aaron Williams and Armand Emamdjomeh got me curious again. See also Bill Rankin’s original map of Chicago and Eric Fischer’s follow-up.
  • Dot density maps show limitations in densely populated areas. It’s not so much dots as it is a spackling of color.

Become a member. Support an independent site. Make great charts.

See What You Get

Favorites

Causes of Death

There are many ways to die. Cancer. Infection. Mental. External. This is how different groups of people died over the past 10 years, visualized by age.

Redefining Old Age

What is old? When it comes to subjects like health care and retirement, we often think of old in fixed terms. But as people live longer, it’s worth changing the definition.

Graphical perception – learn the fundamentals first

Before you dive into the advanced stuff – like just about everything in your life – you have to learn the fundamentals before you know when you can break the rules.

Shifts in How Couples Meet, Online Takes the Top

How do couples meet now and how has it changed over the years? Watch the rankings play out over six decades.