It’s an interesting thought experiment.

For as much as people like to talk about whether you’re an actual Detroiter, or the folks who won’t travel below 8 Mile (or lately, 696 … yes, from experience, that’s a real and crazy thing), or the rise of Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor as economic centers, or Royal Oak’s marketing push as the downtown of Oakland County, at least economically, a new map that shows the borders many perceive between us are more in our heads than real things.

Historical geographer Garrett Dash Nelson from Dartmouth and an urban analyst from the University of Sheffield, Alasdair Rae, teamed up to identify so-called megaregions across the United States. They used data from more than four million commutes and a computational algorithm.

The map above is a look at commutes 50 miles or less on our are of the country. You can start to see individual hubs.

Here are commutes that are long-distance and you can see what cities they’re between. It’s interesting to note there are a lot of business interests tied between Detroit and Cleveland, which should be little surprise. Meanwhile, the west side of the state has a lot of commuting to Chicago.

When you look at the map nationally, you see how even state borders don’t really matter that much. Here’s a map they released, along with a little human judgment, to draw new borders of new regions across the country.

Those in the upper peninsula where some residents who over the years have argued they should be their own state might be excited to know that the U.P. is it’s own little region with Marquette as their center.

“We believe that our results offer a new, more empirically rigorous evaluation of megaregions and demonstrate the utility of this approach in gaining a better understanding of the functional economic geography of the United States at a macro-spatial scale,” they wrote in their abstract.

For the full report, take a look here. And can’t forget a hat tip to Atlas Obscura as the first place we saw this report which we then decided to look at the local level.

Share this post