The most frequent foreign country of birth was mapped using data from tables B05006 and B05002 (for Puerto Rico) of the American Community Survey, using the 2012-2016 5-year estimates. Census tracts were only shaded when the share of the most frequent country of birth was more than 10% of the total population and if the total population of the census tract was at least 100. All birth countries which were the most frequent in at least 10 census tracts in New York and New Jersey appear in the legend 30 other countries appearing fewer than 10 times were grouped as “other”. The color scheme used was that of Trubestskoy, who developed a palette of 20 distinct and nameable colors ( tinyurl.com/20colors ).
1,080 of 2,167 (49.8%) of the census tracts in New York City, along with many others in suburban New York and New Jersey, had at least 10% of their populations born in a single foreign country. Leading countries were the Dominican Republic (246 census tracts in New York City), China (205), Jamaica (166), and Guyana (86). The map reveals well-defined clusters of census tracts for these countries as well as for Korea, India, El Salvador, Poland, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, Haiti, Ukraine, Bangladesh, and Puerto Rico. Note that because the American Community Survey is a survey, the data are subject to sampling error, which can be large at the census tract level. Also, by attempting to view all of the countries in a single map, it is not possible to see which tracts feature significant populations from multiple countries, or which tracts are closer to 10% foreign born versus those which are closer to 100% - to see these patterns would require a map series rather than a single map, which represents work in progress.
Aside from the overall utility of a map depicting the cultural diversity in the New York City metropolitan area, I was motivated to call attention to the lack of attention to place of birth in public health surveillance systems, which emphasize race and ethnicity almost exclusively. The broad racial/ethnic groupings of white, black, Asian or Pacific Islander (API), American Indian or Alaska Native, and Hispanic mask within-group differences that can exceed between-group differences. This often occurs between foreign-born and U.S.-born individuals, who can have considerably different health risks. For example, liver cancer rates in Korea are ten times that in India1; it is unhelpful to group these populations into a single API category. Unfortunately, birthplace information is often not well collected. In the absence of adequate data, researchers could consider using census data as an area-level proxy for individual birthplace.
1Global Burden of Disease Liver Cancer Collaboration. The burden of primary liver cancer and underlying etiologies from 1990 to 2015 at the global, regional, and national level results from the global burden of disease study 2015. JAMA Oncology 2017; 3: 1683-1691.