Stanford University
A Non-State-Based Atlas of Economic and Social Development

Economic and social data are conventionally mapped in a state-based framework, one that uses internationally recognized sovereign countries as fundamental units of analysis. Such a framework is useful for a number of purposes, but it can also be misleading. To begin with, independent states vary in both area and population by several orders of magnitude; as a result, such entities as China (population 1.3 billion) and Nauru (population 11,000) are not comparable units of analysis, and hence should not be treated as such. State-based mapping also obscures tremendous variation within large countries. A conventional map of global GDP per capita, for example, hides the fact that the wealthiest Chinese provinces and Indian states are more than ten times more economically productive that the poorest Chinese provinces and Indian states.

The current project aims at constructing an alterative spatial framework for mapping basic social and economic data, one designed to complement rather than replace the existing state-based model. The alternative map will be based on units of similar population size, roughly 100 million inhabitants. Some of these units will be sovereign states, others combinations of sovereign states, and others subdivisions or groupings of subdivisions of sovereign states. In such a map, China and India will be divided into as many as a dozen sub-national entities, whereas many small countries in other parts of the world will be aggregated into much larger composite units.

The resulting map will be constructed through GIS (Geographical Information Systems) techniques, allowing maximal flexibility and ease of use. The research assistant will be working on both map construction and data tabulation. The end result will be a non-state-based, on-line atlas of global economic and social development, which will be posted at

Former Research Assistant:
Anne Fredell

The Demic Atlas Project: A Non-State-Based Approach to Mapping Global Economic and Social Development

Spatial History