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Quick lesson: Explore spatial data

Spatial analysis often begins by visually exploring a map to find patterns, assess trends, and compare locations. In this lesson, you’ll discover the power of spatial data exploration as you assume the role of a travel agency chain co-owner. In this scenario, you and your business partners want to expand your business to include luxury travel tours and need to decide which agency location is your best option for a first launch. To help you make this decision, you’ll find a public web map in ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World and visually analyze it to assess and compare the agency location options. As you work through the steps in this lesson, you’ll use the following skills: opening a map from Living Atlas, exploring the map using bookmarks and pop-ups, and using predominance smart mapping to compare the viability of different locations based on the predominant target market. This lesson is designed for beginners. Estimated time: 15 minutes.

View the map you'll explore

You're a co-owner of a small chain of travel agencies, with locations in the Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Chicago areas. You and your business partners are interested in expanding your travel services this year to include luxury travel tours, and preliminary Internet research has convinced you that the baby boomer generation—people born between 1946 and 1964—is your most promising target market. Although this generation is often overlooked by marketers, some interesting statistics indicate that the high discretionary income, growing spending power, and vast numbers of baby boomers make them the most desirable market for luxury products and services.

Your partners agree that adding luxury travel services to the business is sure to increase profits, and baby boomers seem to be the perfect target group. Being conservative in business, you want to start small—choose one travel agency and launch the new services there first. But which agency location is the best option? While browsing Esri's gallery of featured maps, you discover a publicly available web map in Living Atlas that contains demographic data about generations including baby boomers, your target market. Using Map Viewer, you'll analyze this map visually and use tools such as bookmarks and pop-ups to find the best location for launching your luxury travel services.

Examine the map and legend

You'll start by opening the map you found in Living Atlas.

  1. In a browser, go to

    The Predominant Generations in the United States web map opens in Map Viewer. The map highlights the predominant generations that make up the population of the United States. The predominant generation is the generation with the largest population compared to the other generations in a given area.

  2. Take a minute to look at the legend.

    Legend for the map

    Each generation is represented by a different color. For example, the baby boomer generation is purple, Generation X is blue, and the millennial generation is teal.


    Demographic data is updated periodically, so the data values you see may differ from those specified in the lesson.

  3. Now look at the map again.

    At this zoom level, you only see purple, teal, and green United States counties. It appears that baby boomers (in purple) are the predominant generation in most counties, with millennials (in teal) and Generation Z being the predominant generations in fewer, but still a notable number of, counties.

    Notice the different sizes of symbols on the map. The symbol size shows the sum of the generational categories—that is, the total population in each county. For example, you can see several large symbols in Southern California representing counties with over 1,500,000 people.

Use bookmarks and pop-ups

You want to launch your new luxury travel services in a city that has a predominance of baby boomers. Your company has agency locations in the Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Chicago areas. To help you decide which one would be best for launching the new services to baby boomers, you'll explore the map using bookmarks and pop-ups.

  1. Click the Bookmarks button and select Los Angeles.

    Bookmarks button with list of places and a green box surrounding Los Angeles

    The map zooms to the area surrounding Los Angeles. At this zoom level, the generational population data is broken down by census tract area. United States census tracts divide state counties into smaller geographic areas, which are useful for revealing local spatial patterns. You can see that millennials are the predominant generation in most of the census tracts around Los Angeles.

    Map zoomed to Los Angeles

  2. Zoom in one level and pan as needed to center the map around Los Angeles. Your travel agency is located west of the Harbor Freeway near the Hollywood Freeway, which is surrounded by teal (millennial) census tract areas.
  3. Click the large teal tract near the intersection of the two freeways, and take some time to review the pop-up information. Note the millennial population and the baby boomer population.

    Pop-up for Los Angeles tract showing counts for all generations and predominance of millennials

    Millennials are predominant by a significant amount, with a population of over 3,000 compared to a baby boomer population of 850.

  4. Click other nearby census tracts to view their pop-ups.

    You'll note a similar pattern of strong predominance of millennials over baby boomers and other generations.

    With the predominance of millennials over baby boomers and the relatively low population of baby boomers in tracts near the Los Angeles agency, this agency doesn't appear to be a suitable location to launch your luxury travel services.

    Next, you'll see whether Washington D.C. is more suitable.

  5. Zoom to the Washington D.C. bookmark.

    The map zooms to Washington, D.C. and the surrounding region. It's immediately apparent that this region has mostly millennial-dominated (teal) census tracts close to the city center.

  6. Zoom in one level to get a closer look.

    Your travel agency is northwest of the city center, near the Potomac River. There are predominantly millennial (teal) census tracts in this area. However, they may be worth examining more closely, as their total populations are larger than 7,000, which is evident from the size of the symbols and the map's legend.

  7. Click the teal tract, Tract 110010056.00, northwest of the Washington label near the river. In the pop-up, note that the baby boomer population is just over 1,000, while the millennial population is almost 4,500.
  8. Click some of the other tracts in that area and note the baby boomer populations in those tracts.

    The tracts near your Washington D.C. agency have slightly higher numbers of baby boomers than those near the Los Angeles agency. Washington D.C. may be a better candidate than Los Angeles for launching luxury travel services to baby boomers. However, you want to look at your third location, Chicago, before making a decision.

  9. Zoom to the Chicago bookmark and zoom in one level.

    Most of the tracts around Chicago are teal, indicating a predominance of millennials. However, there is a cluster of purple baby boomer tracts in Near North Side, close to Lake Michigan. This is where your travel agency is located.

  10. Click the largest purple tract (Tract 170310801.00) to see its pop-up.

    Pop-up for Chicago Tract 170310801.00 showing counts for all generations and predominance of baby boomers

    The population of baby boomers is nearly 2,000, but millennials are not far behind, with a population of about 1,800.

  11. Open the pop-up for the southernmost purple tract (Tract 170310813.00) of the four in this area.

    This tract has an even larger baby boomer population (over 2,000).

  12. Review the pop-ups for the other purple tracts. Take note of their baby boomer populations.

    When you add the baby boomer populations from these tracts together, the total number of baby boomers is significant. Most importantly, all of the tracts are in close proximity to your Chicago travel agency. It looks like you may have found the best place to launch your luxury travel services.

Next steps

After only 15 minutes of work, you found a publicly available web map in Living Atlas, visually analyzed it using tools in Map Viewer, and answered an important business question based on your exploration. What's next?

To find more scenario-based lessons, browse Learn ArcGIS. To start, try Policy Mapping - Safe Streets to Schools. You can also visit The ArcGIS Book and The ArcGIS Imagery Book websites.

Explore ArcGIS Online on your own and discover what else is possible. A few ideas are as follows: