Relative Distance in Geography: Definition & Overview

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  • 0:02 Definition of Relative…
  • 0:34 Relative Distance vs…
  • 0:56 Example 1 of Relative Distance
  • 1:36 Example 2 of Relative Distance
  • 2:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

In this lesson, you'll learn the definition of relative distance in geography and review a couple of examples to further your understanding. Following the lesson, you can take a brief quiz to test your knowledge.

Definition of Relative Distance

Most of us know what distance is. It's the total space between two things or places, usually measured in feet, yards, miles or even city blocks. In geography, when measured in a standard unit of length, this is referred to as absolute distance. What is relative distance, then? Relative distance is a measure of the social, cultural and economic relatedness or connectivity between two places - how connected or disconnected they are - despite their absolute distance from each other.

Relative Distance versus Relative Location

It can be easy to confuse the terms relative distance and relative location, but they are actually very different concepts. Relative location is the location of a person, place or thing in relation to another. For example, you could say that your friend is seated in the second row from the back in the movie theater. Or, you could say that the location of the pencil is to the left of the computer.

Example 1 of Relative Distance

Many Floridians admit that Miami is like its own state compared to the rest of Florida. Almost 66 percent of the population in Miami is Hispanic, whereas only 24 percent of the population in all of Florida is Hispanic. The contrast to Florida's largest city, Jacksonville, is even more stark. Miami is a largely liberal metropolis, politically, which is very different from the very conservative Jacksonville, where only 8 percent of the population is Hispanic.

So, we can say there is a pretty far relative distance between Miami and Jacksonville; the citizens of both of these cities are very different culturally, ethnically and politically.

Example 2 of Relative Distance

In the 1880s, people started migrating from Roseto Valfortore, Italy, to what is now known as Roseto, Pennsylvania. Most of these people were hard physical laborers and very poor. They were drawn to the United States because of its promise for a better life for their families.

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