Monday, October 07, 2013

Accessing U.S. Census Data During the "Shutdown"

We're about a week into the government shutdown, and even though the House of Representatives has passed a bill to restore the lost wages of furloughed federal workers, we still do not have access to the U.S. Census database or many other government sources of data. It's almost certain that the House will not pass a bill to retroactively compensate people for their undue suffering when they lose access to SNAP benefits. Similarly, it is unlikely that the House vote to restore the lost learning opportunities the college students that have happened because of the shutdown. I digress.

Fortunately, we do have alternate sources of key U.S. Census data. The Carmichael Library has secured a month-long trial of Social Explorer. Social Exlorer, published by Oxford University Press, is an interactive data and mapping tool. Anyone can create an account, download data from historical censuses, and create visually attractive maps. If you're working on a project that requires you to find demographic or geographic data, this site should connect you with most (but not all) of the information you need.

Even if we did have access to American FactFinder, Social Explorer is a valuable tool to develop GIS projects. Consider this map I made about educational attainment in the U.S.

 This map explores the percentage of U.S. Citizens who have earned a Master's degree and expresses that in terms of a size bubble for each county in the United States. It's easy to annotate the maps you create, develop projects that feature sequences of maps, and share your maps with other people.

Take a look at Social Explorer. If you like it, please let us know by responding to our trial database survey form.

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