Population Density in PA: The World May Be Flat, But Our State Ain’t

The state data center released a new map today showing how jam-packed we are. Or, in some cases, how far in the boondocks:

Population Density as of July 2007

Observation #1: The world may be flat, but Pennsylvania isn’t. The areas where population density is low are the areas where there are mountains:


Observation #2: The “buffer zone” of eastern Lancaster County remains impressively resilient. Lancaster is not about to be morphed into another Philly suburb any time soon. Given our rate of farmland preservation, it’s unlikely to happen ever.

Population density in Southeast Pennsylvania

Observation #3: A lot of people live “halfway between.” The notion of a Southcentral PA is not a media-market fiction. Lancaster is clearly connected by dense populations to Reading, Hershey, Harrisburg and York. Thousands of people can easily consider themselves a part of two or more of those urban centers. Columbia borough, for instance, is practically as much York as it is Lancaster. Elizabethtown is as much Harrisburg as it is Hershey as it is Lancaster.

Observation #4: While York County is becoming Marylandized, Lancaster County is not. Look at the pockets of dense population in southern York County–Shrewsbury, Loganville, New Freedom. Credit them to new housing developments built to meet the demand of “Baltimorons.” In Lancaster, there is no density to speak of south of Quarryville. No doubt this will intensify the growing cultural contrasts between the two counties.

I’m viewing these as an amateur, not an expert. I’m sure I’ve missed some interesting stuff. What do you see that I don’t?

Also, I am holding off on considering what these observations, if accurate, really mean. How will our lives and communities be changed by the patterns we can observe here?