Mapping subnational administrative areas

Between teaching classes and a couple of projects that I’ve been working on lately, I’ve been finding Stata’s spmap command to be a really useful tool for generating maps to display data. One project in particular has involved the collection of some new data for examining various developmental outcomes at the subnational level. To some extent this is new territory for me, but the idea of being able to display the geographic distribution of some of the key variables that we’re interested in was really attractive. I’ve found shapefiles for generating global maps, as well as maps of the US, but so far I’ve not had any occasion to look at other countries.

In browsing around this week I came across this repository containing a bunch of files for generating maps of individual countries and their administrative divisions. Here’s the description from the front page:

GADM is a spatial database of the location of the world’s administrative areas (or adminstrative boundaries) for use in GIS and similar software. Administrative areas in this database are countries and lower level subdivisions such as provinces, departments, bibhag, bundeslander, daerah istimewa, fivondronana, krong, landsvæðun, opština, sous-préfectures, counties, and thana. GADM describes where these administrative areas are (the “spatial features”), and for each area it provides some attributes, such as the name and variant names.

This may be a resource that folks more familiar with GIS and other similar tools are already aware of, but it seemed like the sort of thing to share. I’ve only played with a couple of countries so far, but each package appears to include several “layers” of administrative divisions—from broader regions, to states/provinces, to more granular municipal divisions, for example. I’m sure I’ll continue using it in the future for class and research.

Michael Flynn

About Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Kansas State University. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Binghamton University in 2013. His research focuses on the political and economic determinants of foreign economic and security policy, security issues, and state repression.

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