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December 26, 2013 / carlispina

Visualize Census Data With Census Explorer

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau not only released new statistics based on its 2008-2012 American Community Survey, but also started offering a whole new tool to quickly visualize portions of this data without any technical knowledge. Called the Census Explorer, this tool allows users to pick a geographic location and quickly visualize census data for that location by selecting from a few drop down menus. Currently the tool can be used to visualize the following statistics (as stated in the press release that accompanied the new tool):

  • Total population
  • Percent 65 and older
  • Foreign-born population percentage
  • Percent of the population with a high school degree or higher
  • Percent with a bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Labor force participation rate
  • Home ownership rate
  • Median household income

Data can be visualized at the state, county or census tract levels and users can customize the resulting map with the color of their choosing. Once a visualization is complete, hovering over any of the individual geographic units will display a pop-up box with specific data for that location. Users can also compare change over time by instead visualizing either the 1990 or 2000 census. The tool also provides links to the U.S. Census Bureau’s glossary and the raw data to help users understand what they are looking at.

Overall, this tool will be interesting for those with a casual interest in the census data or for teachers interested in showing students how the census works. Serious researchers will find the tool too limited, particularly since you can only focus on one year’s data and one type of data at a time, and they will undoubtedly prefer to use the more flexible API, which was also updated to include the latest data, so they aren’t the target audience for this tool. But, it is a useful tool for illustrating the usefulness of census data and the changes over the last two decades. If you are interested in teaching government data or learning more about the existing data on specific geographic locations, this tool will serve your purposes.


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