Choropleth map

definition - mistake - related - code


A choropleth map displays divided geographical areas or regions that are coloured in relation to a numeric variable. It allows to study how a variable evolutes along a territory. It is a powerful and widely used data visualization technique. However, its downside is that regions with bigger sizes tend to have a bigger weight in the map interpretation, which includes a bias.

Here is an example describing the distribution of restaurants in the south of france.

# Libraries

# Import region boundaries
spdf <- geojson_read("",  what = "sp")
# Since it is a bit to much data, I select only a subset of it:
spdf = spdf[ substr(spdf@data$code,1,2)  %in% c("06", "83", "13", "30", "34", "11", "66") , ]
# I need to fortify the data AND keep trace of the commune code! (Takes 2 minutes)
spdf_fortified <- tidy(spdf, region = "code")
# read data
data=read.table("", header=T, sep=";")

# Make the merge
spdf_fortified = spdf_fortified %>%
  left_join(. , data, by=c("id"="depcom")) 
# Note that if the number of restaurant is NA, it is in fact 0
spdf_fortified$nb_equip[$nb_equip)] = NA

# Plot
p <- ggplot() +
  geom_polygon(data = spdf_fortified, aes(fill = nb_equip, x = long, y = lat, group = group) , size=0, alpha=0.9) +
  theme_void() +
  scale_fill_viridis(direction=-1, trans = "log", breaks=c(1,5,10,20,50,100), name="Number of restaurant", guide = guide_legend( keyheight = unit(3, units = "mm"), keywidth=unit(12, units = "mm"), label.position = "bottom", title.position = 'top', nrow=1) ) +
    title = "South of France Restaurant concentration",
    subtitle = "Number of restaurant per city district", 
    caption = "Data: INSEE | Creation: Yan Holtz |"
  ) +
    text = element_text(color = "#22211d"), 
    plot.background = element_rect(fill = "#f5f5f2", color = NA), 
    panel.background = element_rect(fill = "#f5f5f2", color = NA), 
    legend.background = element_rect(fill = "#f5f5f2", color = NA),
    plot.title = element_text(size= 15, hjust=0.01, color = "#4e4d47", margin = margin(b = -0.1, t = 0.4, l = 2, unit = "cm")),
    plot.subtitle = element_text(size= 12, hjust=0.01, color = "#4e4d47", margin = margin(b = -0.1, t = 0.43, l = 2, unit = "cm")),
    plot.caption = element_text( size=8, color = "#4e4d47", margin = margin(b = 0.3, r=-99, unit = "cm") ),
    legend.position = c(0.7, 0.09)
  ) +

Note: Boundaries of city districts come from here. Number of restaurant per district comes from here.

Important Note: Here, the absolute number of restaurant per district is shown. Keep in mind that an important bias is present: districts with large area and / or high number of inhabitants are more prone to have a lot of restaurants.

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Common mistakes


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A work by Yan Holtz for