Tag: Social Systems

Minneapolis: How do we partition a city into sub-systems?

By Matt Johnson

So far we’ve established the (3) systems’ axioms; we’ve touched on the notion of systems’ boundaries by using examples of cities; and we’ve established what a system’s behavior is by analyzing the labor force, average weekly wages, and unemployment rate of Minneapolis. Today, we are going to begin to partition the Minneapolis system into its respective subsystems and we are going to do it by ward.

In the next blog, we will decompose Minneapolis by zip-code. And in a future article, we will decompose Minneapolis’ wards into their respective subsystems – neighborhoods – which will introduce us to the notion of systems’ levels.

Minneapolis is a city with 413,651 residents as of July 1, 2016 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Furthermore, those 413,651 residents obviously live in different parts of the city. Those parts of the city are called wards and Minneapolis has 13 Wards. According to Minneapolis City Government data, each ward contains about 32,000 residents, which of course varies every few years.

This means that each ward in Minneapolis contains about 32,000 residents; those residents interact with each other; and each ward has a function, which in this case is to provide political opportunity in voting and representation, and allocation of resources.

Thus, we have just shown that all 13 wards in Minneapolis satisfy the (3) systems’ axioms:

  1. A system consists of a set of elements.
  2. Elements in a system interact.
  3. A system has a function, or purpose.

Besides illustrating that these 13 wards are systems, we have also established that these wards are themselves subsystems of the general system of Minneapolis. This is because we have shown they satisfy the systems’ axioms, they are contained within Minneapolis, and they have established boundaries, i.e., political boundaries.

And this is a great place for us to dig a little deeper into the notion of boundary. Boundaries can be fuzzy or concrete; and boundaries can be regular or irregular. In the case of political boundaries, which are the wards we are observing, they are concrete and irregular. If we look at any of the 13 wards in Minneapolis, we can observe that the boundaries of the wards are well-defined, i.e., concrete. And we know this is because of the Minneapolis City Charter. But we can also observe that these boundaries are irregular. That is, they are not squares, rectangles, triangles, or circles.

In this short blog, we established that these 13 wards are subsystems of Minneapolis. We also established, with the help of the map, that the boundaries of these wards are concrete and irregular. As we keep moving forward, we will see that our new-found knowledge of systems will pay dividends when we begin to compare and contrast the different wards, neighborhoods, zip-codes, and other Minneapolis subsystems. And we will do this by adding a new tool to our systems’ took-kit – systems dynamics.

Let us now, as we have done before, attempt to disprove our systems’ notions and work in the tradition of natural philosophy until the next blog.


Matt Johnson is a blogger/writer for The Systems Scientist and the Urban Dynamics blog. He has also contributed to the Iowa State Daily and Our Black News. Matt has a Bachelor of Science in Systems Science, with focuses in applied mathematics and economic systems, from Iowa State University. 

You can connect with him directly in the comments section, and follow him on Facebook

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The Dynamics of San Diego

“This city scientist has already established disparities of MHI through patterns in multiple cities. For example, there are a greater proportion of white residents who have MHIs greater than $75 thousand for Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Los Angeles.”

By Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

A view of downtown San Diego from Horton Plaza
A view of downtown San Diego from Horton Plaza

San Diego is the most southern city in the state of California. In the beginning, it was inhabited by indigenous Americans, specifically the Kumeyaay, or Kumiai in Spanish, before the first Spanish visited the western coast of the Americas and before colonialism. Today, this area is a large and thriving American city of about 1.4 million residents. In some ways, it is similar to other American cities while in other ways it is different.

Immediately, it is obvious to the visitor that San Diego is a beach city. That is, it resides directly on the Pacific ocean, which can be observed by way of flip-flops, long-boards, shorts, shirts, shades, lexicon, and mannerism, just to name a few things. It is also a military town. According to City-data.com, the Federal Government is the largest employer in San Diego. As of 2004, Uncle Sam employed more than 44 thousand employees. These variables in turn influence the city’s economic, political, and social systems in various ways.

For example, the city council of San Diego is composed of 5 elected officials from the democratic party and 4 elected officials from the republican party. In addition, the mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, is a republican. As readers of this blog will know, that is a diverse group of representatives, at least politically, when compared to the city council of Minneapolis, which is composed of 12 democrats and 1 green party official.

Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA

Why might this diversity in political perspective exist? One possible explanation could be the vast numbers of military personnel who reside in the city. Military personnel and veterans tend to vote republican, at least traditionally. Or perhaps those republicans who serve on the city council tend to be more moderate? Or maybe the diversity of the political body can be explained by the diversity of the city?

As for the diversity of the city, San Diego is about 43 percent white, about 30 percent latino, about 17 percent Asian, about 6 percent black, about 3 percent mixed with two groups or more, about .4 percent Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and about .3 percent indigenous. As the proportions illustrate, San Diego is a fairly diverse city when it comes to different regional groups. This diversity is evident in riding public transportation by way of train or bus, or a stroll around downtown San Diego. However, San Diego is a large city both in population and area.

San Diego is about 324 square miles. Its topography is composed of mountains, chaparral vegetation, and ocean. And its climate is similar to that of a mediterranean climate. But like the differences between the inland of San Diego and the ocean front of the city, it faces similar economic differences as other American cities do.

In preparation for this article and future San Diego articles, this urban dynamicist spent three days exploring San Diego and analyzed the median household incomes of the city’s residents. Although only one variable was researched and analyzed, the median household income (MHI) variable, the variable provided some useful information about the current economic conditions of San Diego. Why? Patterns and cross-city comparative analysis demonstrate the power of systems analysis.

Pacific Beach, San Diego, CA
Pacific Beach, San Diego, CA

This city scientist has already established disparities of MHI through patterns in multiple cities. For example, there are a greater proportion of white residents who have MHIs greater than $75 thousand for Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Los Angeles. However, this isn’t true for San Diego. In San Diego, Asians are number one with 52 percent of MHIs greater than $75 thousand. White residents are second with 44 percent of MHIs greater than $75 thousand. Surprised?

Why might this be? What explains this change in pattern? Is it the type of industries that Asian residents participate in ? And how much do the proportions change when the median family income (MFI) is computed and analyzed? And finally, where do black Americans reside on these two economic scales: MHI and MFI? This is just the start of exploring San Diego’s urban systems.

For more articles on median household incomes, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Los Angeles, see The Colors, Data, and Economy of Los Angeles and The Median Household Income for Minneapolis in 2013, and The Median Household Income for St. Paul in 2013.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!