I have 2 maps with the district borders of a country and I want to combine their features based on their location on the map but the borders of the districts don't overlap perfectly. I tried to use spatial join but in many cases it mixes the features of one district with the features of the neighboring districts.

For example enter image description here

In the picture above the blue polygon is the district border of the 1st map and in the background I have border of the 2nd map. When I use spatial join it combines the features of the blue polygon with those of the top right polygon (the one with the red sign)

How can I combine the features of the proper polygons?

  • 2
    Please include images using the StackExchange editor, so that they are presented inline (external links aren't always followed, and are subject to removal or corruption). A google on "arcgis spaghetti and meatballs" will provide an alternate way to model polygon/polygon overlay, using the label point for a point/polygon relationship.
    – Vince
    Dec 17, 2015 at 19:14

1 Answer 1


It is always best to give the actual parameters you used for spatial join. If the overlap throughout your dataset is similar with your example map (i.e, only the boundaries are mismatched slightly and the center of one polygon is always in the overlapping polygon...) you can use spatial join with the joining type have their center in that should give you the needed match.

Note: Have center in might not be available for ArcGIS versions earlier than ArcGIS 10.2.

  • 1
    no probs, glad it helped!
    – yanes
    Dec 17, 2015 at 19:49
  • 1
    With any sort of processing like this though, you should be extremely careful, as it can give you unexpected results in some situations--especially with smaller features.
    – Tom
    Dec 18, 2015 at 1:51
  • 1
    What Tom said is absolutely correct, this works for boundaries that are slightly mis-matched, if there is a situation where one of the layers is more fragmented it will lead to confusing results. However, the solution holds as per OP's provided illustration of the layers and the assumption included in the answer (i.e works only if boundaries are mismatched slightly and the centre of a polygon always lies in the overlapping polygon)
    – yanes
    Dec 18, 2015 at 1:55
  • 1
    I would recommend spot-checking your ~five smallest features (both by area and by perimeter) from both datasets to ensure that they were joined properly.
    – Tom
    Dec 19, 2015 at 3:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.