I try to explain it as simple as possible. I have a few overlapping polygons in my input layer, they have a rank attribute. Now i want to intersect them with each other creating a new layer polygons. These polygons should have the rank attribute of the highest ranking polygon of the input layer.

How can i do that in ArcMap.

  • Intersect with itself, 1 input. Sort descending by attribute of interest. Delete identical shapes
    – FelixIP
    Aug 4, 2016 at 19:42
  • if i do a self intersect, it finishes with a warning: empty output generated. Where could be the problem? Aug 4, 2016 at 19:53
  • It means your polygons do not overlap OR you environment extent is wrong. Set it to extent of layer of interest. Yes you can dissolve using max as statistics instead of deleting identical
    – FelixIP
    Aug 4, 2016 at 20:17

1 Answer 1


You want to use the union tool instead of intersect.

Then, dissolve, setting the attribute of interest as a statistics field, with MAX as the statistic type. You must leave the dissolve fields empty to get the result you want.

If you wish to retain other attributes, it could get a little tricky and could be a few extra steps. An iterated Erase might be the easiest way. If you have a lot of values and you're open to Python, it's a pretty simple script--I've already got a function to do this, and I can share it.


The difference is that intersect will retain only those areas where features overlapped; union will retain the full area, but just split features where they overlap with others.

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