Are Americans living the Jeffersonian ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? It turns out that some enjoy more longevity, freedom and fun than others. Kelly Johnston, a geographic information systems specialist at UVA’s Scholars’ Lab, made a series of maps that visually express U.S. Census data about how long we live, how many of us are in jail and how many of us have access to the arts and recreation that could make us happy.

“Transforming datasets from a spreadsheet to a map takes advantage of our human ability to consume mass quantities of information visually,” says Johnston. “Rows of numbers stashed away in academic journals and U.S. Census tables come alive when mapped to show comparisons with their neighbors both near and far.”

This map is color-coded for “the ratio of arts, entertainment and recreation establishments to the total population.” Lower scores (yellow and orange) mean less access and higher scores (dark green) mean more access.

What About Us?

Charlottesville received a “higher than average” rating on the happiness scale. The other two maps of life and liberty show that life expectancy in Charlottesville is higher than average and that the city has an average percentage of incarcerated people.