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Physical to Political Geography

Early in the country’s history, descriptions of population distribution across the landscape were tied closely to physical features. Once the extent of generally settled area was established, descriptions tended to focus on gains, losses, and movement of people. By the 20th century, a broader view of population distribution is reflected by the increased use of terms such as suburban, rural, metropolitan, and counties. This interactive data visualization offers a summary of some of the key words used to describe population distribution in Census Publications between 1800 and 2000.

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