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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 between the ages of 52 and 70—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 expanding the business to include luxury travel services is sure to increase profits, and baby boomers seem to be the perfect group to target. Being conservative in business, they want to start small—choose one travel agency and launch the new services there first. But which agency location—Los Angeles, Washington D.C., or Chicago—is the best option? On a friend's recommendation, you decide to search Esri's gallery of featured maps hoping to finding one that contains the demographic information you need to answer this question. After a couple of minutes of searching, you are fortunate to discover a great, publicly available web map in Living Atlas that contains data about generations including baby boomers, your target market. Using Map Viewer, you'll see how to analyze the map visually and use tools such as bookmarks and pop-ups to find the best location for the launch of the new 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 U.S. Generations by Congressional District web map opens in Map Viewer. The map highlights the predominant generation in each Unites States congressional district in 2016. The predominant generation in a district is the generation that has the highest population compared to the other generations in the district.

  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 blue, Generation X is green, and the millennial generation is yellow.

  3. Now look at the map again.

    At this zoom level, you only see yellow districts and blue districts. It appears that millennials (in yellow) are the predominant generation in most districts, with baby boomers (in blue) being the predominant generation in fewer, but still a notable number of, districts.

    Notice the different shades (or levels of transparency) of blue and yellow in the map. The transparency of the color is related to the degree of predominance in a particular district. For example, a light (or more transparent) blue district indicates that baby boomers have the highest population in that district but that this generation's population is not significantly higher than the next highest population in the district.

Use bookmarks and pop-ups

You want to launch your new luxury travel services in a city that has a high 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, CA.

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

    The map zooms to the area surrounding Los Angeles. You can see that millennials are the predominant generation in all the districts in this area.

    Map zoomed to Los Angeles

    Your Los Angeles-based travel agency is located near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in District 43 so you'll examine that district more closely.

  2. If necessary, zoom in one level to see the label for Los Angeles on the map. Click some of the districts just inland from Redondo Beach until you find District 43.
  3. Take some time to review the pop-up information for District 43. Point to the longest bar in the bar chart and note the millennial population. Do the same with the second bar that represents baby boomers.

    Pop-up for District 43 and ScreenTip for second bar in the bar chart showing population for baby boomers

    Millennials are predominant by a significant amount, with a population of over 230,000 compared to a baby boomer population of just over 140,000.

  4. Click other nearby districts 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 District 43 and other nearby districts, the Los Angeles agency doesn't appear to be a suitable location to launch your luxury travel services.

    Next, you'll see whether Chicago is any more suitable.

  5. Zoom to the Chicago, IL bookmark.

    The map zooms to the Chicago area. Most of the districts are yellow, indicating a predominance of millennials, but there is one district in blue—District 6—that is predominantly baby boomers.

  6. Click District 6 to see its pop-up. In the bar chart, point to the baby boomers bar and then the millennials bar, noting the population of each generation.

    Pop-up for District 6 and ScreenTip for fourth bar in the bar chart showing population for millennials

    The population of baby boomers is about 185,000 but millennials are not far behind, with a population of about 176,000.

    Your travel agency is located in District 3, which is adjacent to the lower right corner of the blue District 6. District 3 is one of the yellow millennial-dominated districts, but you are curious to see the population of baby boomers in that district.

  7. Click the pop-up for District 3.

    Pop-up for District 3

    The baby boomer population in that district is only about 160,000, while millennials, the predominant generation, have a population of about 204,000.

  8. Click some of the other districts around District 3.

    You'll notice similar or lower populations of baby boomers in those areas, with even smaller numbers as you investigate districts closer to the city center.

    Your third agency is located in Washington, D.C. Maybe it's a better location for launching services to baby boomers.

  9. Zoom to the Washington, DC bookmark.

    The map zooms to Washington, D.C. and the surrounding region. It is immediately apparent that this region has more baby boomer-dominated (blue) districts than other locations. Your travel agency is in Virginia District 10, the purple district (Gen Z). However, there are two blue Virginia districts adjoining District 10, and many other blue districts in surrounding districts, which would be worth examining more closely.

  10. Click the blue district, Virginia District 5, just south of the purple district, to display its pop-up. Point to the second bar in the bar chart to see the population of baby boomers.

    Pop-up for District 5 and ScreenTip for second bar in the bar chart showing population for baby boomers

    Virginia District 5 has nearly 200,000 baby boomers.

  11. Click some of the other blue baby boomer-dominated districts, and note the baby boomer populations in those districts.

    All of the blue districts have large baby boomer populations. Compared to the baby boomer populations in the districts you examined in Chicago, the blue districts in the Washington, D.C. area have notably higher numbers of baby boomers. The difference is even more obvious when you compare baby boomer populations in Washington, D.C. to those in the predominantly millennial Los Angeles area. 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've 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 Connect Streams for Salmon Migration. 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: