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Commuters and Computers: Mapping U.S. Megaregions

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US Megaregions Map

Commuters and Computers: Mapping U.S. Megaregions

From California’s Bay Area to the highly-integrated Great Lakes Economy, megaregions are a dominating aspect of human geography and commerce. It should be no surprise then, that 85% of corporate head offices in the US and Canada are overwhelmingly concentrated in the core cities of great megaregions.

We tend to think of cities as individual economic units, but as they expand outward and bleed together, defining them simply by official jurisdictions and borders becomes difficult. After all, many of the imaginary lines divvying up the country are remnants of decisions from centuries ago – and other county and state lines exist for more counterintuitive reasons such as gerrymandering.

What if there was a more data-driven approach to examine America’s urban networks?

Computer, Take The Wheel

By ignoring borders and looking purely at commuter data, geographer Garrett Nelson and urban analyst Alasdair Rae looked to map the relationship between population centers in their paper, An Economic Geography of the United States: From Commutes to Mega-regions.

Minneapolis Map
Researchers used visual and algorithmic approaches to build their map.

The study used network partitioning software to link together 4 million commutes between census tracts. This gives us a very granular look at the “gravitational pull” of America’s population centers, and helps us better understand the economic links that bind a region together.

By combining visual and mathematical approaches, and some creative place-naming, the researchers created a map that they hope reflects America’s true economic geography.

megaregions us map

Algorithmic Insights

The concept of megaregions is hardly new, and there are already definitions for global megacities that use everything from infrastructure systems to light patterns derived from satellite imagery.

That said, this research is fine example of using data and an algorithmic approach to look at systems in a new way, unburdened by our political and cultural preconceptions.

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Misc

Chart: Which Countries Eat the Most Instant Noodles?

The top ranked country ate about 30 instant noodle servings per person in 2023, at a rate of slightly more than two helpings a month.

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A cropped chart showing the number of instant noodle servings consumed by country in 2023.

Chart: Which Countries Eat the Most Instant Noodles?

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

The world collectively consumed 120 billion instant noodle servings in 2023. But which countries ate the most?

We visualize the country-level breakdown with estimated figures from the World Instant Noodles Association (WINA).

ℹ️ Established in March 1997, WINA collects and distributes data related to instant noodles for safe consumption and quality.

Ranked: Countries by their Instant Noodle Consumption

Unsurprisingly, the now second-most populous country in the world, China, (along with Hong Kong SAR) ate about 42 billion instant noodle servings in 2023. This works out to about 30 noodle helpings per person in the year.

RankCountryRegionInstant Noodle
Servings Consumed
1🇨🇳 China and
🇭🇰 Hong Kong
Asia42.2B
2🇮🇩 IndonesiaAsia14.5B
3🇮🇳 IndiaAsia8.7B
4🇻🇳 VietnamAsia8.1B
5🇯🇵 JapanAsia5.8B
6🇺🇸 U.S.North America5.1B
7🇵🇭 PhilippinesAsia4.4B
8🇰🇷 South KoreaAsia4.0B
9🇹🇭 ThailandAsia4.0B
10🇳🇬 NigeriaAfrica3.0B
11🇧🇷 BrazilSouth America2.6B
12🇷🇺 RussiaEurope/Asia2.2B
N/A🌍 Rest of WorldOther15.6B

Staying in Asia, Indonesia (14.5 billion servings), India (8.7 billion), Vietnam (8.1 billion) and Japan (5.8 billion) make up the top five.

The U.S. is the top ranked country by instant noodle consumption (5.1 billion servings) from outside Asia. There are also only two non-Asian countries in the top 10, with the other being Nigeria (3 billion portions).

Russia is the top ranked European country for instant noodle consumption, 12th overall with 2.2 billion servings.

Noodle Preferences Around the World

There’s a large variety in instant noodle brands worldwide, catering to different populations’ specific cultural and dietary habits.

For example, given Indonesia’s largely Muslim population, most noodle products are halal.

On the other hand, vegetable and tomato-based soups are eaten the most in India due to its large vegetarian population.

Meanwhile, Vietnam prefers a shrimp-flavored broth along with pho rice noodles, which are popular in the country.

To end with a fun fact, instant noodles sold in the U.S. are generally cut shorter due to most people eating them with a spoon and/or fork.

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