Ancestry Data: Neat, But Not on PolicyMap

With the ACS 5-year data release coming up in December, we’ve been having discussions about what data we might want to add from the ACS on to PolicyMap. Some good ideas have been tossed around, like data on veterans, people with disabilities, children in poverty, and others. (Stay tuned to see what we add.) But one whole category of data caught my attention: Ethnic origin and ancestry.

Data on ancestry can be fascinating. A quick peek at the Wikipedia page for “Race and ethnicity in the United States” shows a map of the predominant ethnic background in each county:

From Wikipedia

Census-2000-Data-Top-US-Ancestries-by-County“. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

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Mapchats – Land Banks: How Data Transforms Vacancy into Value


What can help turn a vacant, abandoned or tax-foreclosed property into an occupied home, a community garden, or other type of community asset? Land banks can. For those of you wondering what a land bank is, it is a government or community-owned entity that acquires, manages, maintains, and repurposes vacant, abandoned, and foreclosed properties. According to one estimate, there are now approximately 120 land banks and land banking programs around the country.
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Visit PolicyMap at APLU in Indianapolis!

annual-meeting-logo-240x180If you are attending APLU this year, we hope you’ll stop by the exhibits to find out why a growing number of universities are subscribing to PolicyMap for university administration, faculty and staff research, and student projects. Please visit us at the APLU exhibits – Booth #19 to see a live demonstration of PolicyMap.

Read more about PolicyMap university access and see a list of current university subscribers here. Visit us at the APLU exhibits to find out more and arrange for a free university-wide trial of PolicyMap.

Use PolicyMap for University Administration:

  • Government Relations: Demonstrate your university’s economic impact within congressional and state representative districts.
  • Outreach, Engagement and Community Affairs: Identify areas in the greatest need for health, food access and educational outreach efforts. Load your own project data to interactively present your community engagement activities to the public.
  • Economic Development: Understand the traits of your area’s workforce and how it is changing over time.
  • Grants and Development: Use PolicyMap for more competitive grant applications.

Use PolicyMap for faculty research and in the classroom in these areas:

  • • social sciences • urban studies and planning • community and economic development • public administration and policy • public health, epidemiology and nursing • political science • education • environmental studies • business • economics • statistics • geography • real estate and housing analysis

Enjoy the Conference!

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PolicyMap Featured in Lincoln Institute Publication

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Land Lines, a publication of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, profiled PolicyMap and how it’s being used across the country to advance data-driven decision making. Learn how PolicyMap streamlines GIS for cities from Los Angeles to Philadelphia and San Antonio.

Charting Progress: PolicyMap Democratizes Data Analysis

Data-driven decision making is easier than ever with this mostly free, intuitive online mapping tool. Featuring expert statistics on 37,000 indicators— from public education and house prices to crime rates—the web’s largest geographic database helps policy makers avoid getting stuck on the wrong side of the widening digital divide.

Read the full story

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PolicyMap Updates for October

Here’s a list of the data we’ve updated over the past month:

Bank Branches, 2015 (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation)
Bank Failures, 2015 (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation)

Quality of Life
NEW! Museums, 2015 (Institute of Museum and Library Services)

Unemployment, September 2015 (Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics)

Head Start Centers, 2015 (Head Start)
Public Schools: Enrollment and Demographics, 2013-2014 (National Center for Education Statistics)

Federal Guidelines
Promise Zones, 2015 (Department of Housing and Urban Development)

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Mapchats: Watch the PolicyMap in the Classroom Webinar

Did you miss the PolicyMap in the Classroom webinar? Want to see the slides our presenters used? We updated our blog post to include the full webinar recording and each presenter’s slides.

We’ve heard you loud and clear: you love mapping, and you’d like a simple way of incorporating it into your syllabus. Let us help you include mapping in your lesson plans as we hear from two prominent professors about various ways of using PolicyMap in the classroom.  Join us on October 19, 2015 from 3-4 pm EDT for the next webinar in our Mapchats series.  Hear from Dr. Carolina Reid of the University of California at Berkeley as she discusses her use of PolicyMap in her Urban Studies course on environmental, economic and social issues.  And join Dr. Russell McIntire of Thomas Jefferson University as he describes his use of PolicyMap for teaching map-making skills to visualize community-based public health data for his Public Health class.

russell-mcintireDr. Russell K. McIntire, Assistant Professor, Jefferson College of Population Health (JCPH) at Thomas Jefferson University: Dr. McIntire received his doctorate in Health Behavior and his Master of Public Health at Indiana University School of Public Health- Bloomington. His major research interests include identifying and analyzing the social, behavioral, and geographic risk factors of substance use among adolescents and other vulnerable populations. In addition to his research, Dr. McIntire teaches epidemiology, social and behavioral theory, and geographic information systems (GIS) classes in the JCPH Master of Public Health program.

carolina-reidDr. Carolina Reid, Assistant Professor, Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California at Berkeley: Carolina specializes in housing and community development, with a specific focus on access to credit, homeownership and wealth inequality. She has most recently published research on the impact of the foreclosure crisis on low-income and minority communities, the role of the Community Reinvestment Act during the subprime crisis, and the importance of anti-predatory lending laws for consumer protection. Carolina is particularly interested in interdisciplinary research and the integration of qualitative and quantitative methods.

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Update on how printouts work

You might have noticed that prints work a bit different now. It’s not a big change yet, but it’s a first step before a much bigger update to come. But here’s how printing has changed for now:

You no longer have to wait for the alerts in the top right corner to popup to be able to download your file. Downloads now happen in the browser, and it usually takes a few seconds or more for file to appear. If your file is taking a bit too long, refresh the browser and that should trigger the download.


Options for printing remain the same for now: customize the name to give your map a title, select the orientation of the layout, and pick whether to shade the whole map or just your area.

The format types (i.e. PDF, PNG, or JPEG) are also the same, but you can choose only one format.

All printouts will still save to your My Saved Work section, so you can retrieve a copy later.

Our university and site license users benefit from this new function the most. Printouts now immediately download to your desktop, and you no longer have to go to Saved Work to download.

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Stories Behind Data: Clinton County Catastrophe

DHL_PlaneOften when we think of disasters we think of environmental disasters. But economic disasters can also devastate a community. These disasters often take the form of a giant spike in the unemployment rate. Few counties understand this better than Clinton County, Ohio, a county that was devastated by the closing of its biggest employer in 2009. While the county was recovering in 2013, I was an intern for its Chamber of Commerce and I learned about the county’s story from the local residents. I will use PolicyMap’s economic data to tell the story.

Right before the disaster in 2009, Clinton County’s workforce was heavily concentrated in the transportation and warehouse industry. In 2008, according to the Census Bureau, over 40% of Clinton County’s jobs were in the transportation and warehousing industry. No county in Ohio had similar levels of concentration in this industry. In fact, the county ranked second in terms of percentage of its workforce in this industry in the United States. It was safe to say that when the transportation and warehousing industry does not do well, the Clinton County workforce will not do well. Continue reading

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Mapchats – Watch the Neighborhood Rx Webinar

Couldn’t attend the webinar last week? Attended but wanted to see the Mapchats magic all over again? Either way, you’re in luck. We put together a blog post that includes the full webinar recording and each presenter’s slides.

Watch the webinar recording below:


patrick_sullivanPATRICK SULLIVAN is a Professor of Epidemiology at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, and Co-Director of the Prevention Sciences Core at Emory’s Center for AIDS Research (CFAR). Dr. Sullivan’s research focuses on HIV among men who have sex with men, including behavioral research, interventions, and surveillance. Previously, Dr. Sullivan worked as the Chief of the Behavioral and Clinical Surveillance Branch at CDC, implementing HIV research studies and surveillance systems to meet critical local, state and national HIV prevention needs. He is the PI of NIH-funded studies to determine reasons for black/white disparities in HIV among MSM, to pilot HIV prevention packages among MSM in South Africa, to evaluate distribution of at-home HIV test kits to MSM in the US, and to develop and test a comprehensive mobile prevention app for gay and bisexual men. He is also the Principal Scientist of and




arti_virkudARTI VIRKUD is a data analyst for the Population Health Team at the Bureau of the Primary Care Information Project at the New York City (NYC) Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. She works on epidemiological research using aggregate data from NYC ambulatory practices. Her research ranges from chronic disease studies on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and falls risk in older adults to infectious disease projects on tuberculosis and HIV prevention. She has a BS in neuroscience from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MPH in epidemiology from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.




morgan_robinsonMORGAN ROBINSON is a data analyst at PolicyMap. She has applied and developed her skills in data processing and mapping with community-based and advocacy organizations in Detroit, Seattle, and New York. She comes to PolicyMap from Data Driven Detroit, a nonprofit data provider for Southeast Michigan, where she provided research and analysis to support local neighborhood and environmental initiatives. Through her experience, she gained an understanding of how leaders and policymakers use data to make smart and effective decisions. Morgan earned a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies and Political Science from Columbia University, and a Master’s degree in Community Development from the University of Detroit Mercy.



To check out previous Mapchats recordings, visit: Mapchats

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County Subdivisions: The Secret Geography

Census tracts get all the glory. As do block groups, ZIP codes, counties, and states. But what if I told you, there’s an amazing geography you’ve probably never used?

Enter county subdivisions. They are smaller than counties (duh), and larger than most census tracts and ZIP codes. They’re better known as townships, towns, cities, districts, boroughs, barrios, villages, plantations (not those plantations—they’re in Maine), municipalities, subdistricts, reservations, counties (which are not the same as counties), grants, purchases, locations, gores (!?), and islands. These are all minor civil divisions (MCDs), meaning they’re legal – not just statistical – entities.

Some states don’t have minor civil divisions, so the Census just draws up their own subdivisions, calling them Census county divisions (CCDs) and Census subareas. Some states with minor civil divisions have areas with no legally established MCD; the Census defines those as unorganized territories (UTs). These are all purely statistical entities, with no local legal recognition.

Cheltenham_PA_township_seal.svgI grew up in Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania. It has its own police department and school district, and is governed by a Board of Commissioners. All the street signs are blue and gold (go Panthers!). If I wanted statistical information about it, looking at Montgomery County as a whole wouldn’t be too useful, since it’s much bigger and geographically diverse. I could look at the smaller census tracts that are inside of Cheltenham, but that would only tell you about its different parts. For a look at the township, the whole township, and nothing but the township, county subdivisions would be the way to go.

Everything else you could possibly want to know about county subdivisions is here:

So why are these geographies so “secret”?

  • Shade byYou don’t see county subdivisions by default on PolicyMap. To see data shown at the county subdivision level, you have to go to the “Shade by” menu in the legend, and click on it. Not all data is available at this level, but Census and American Community Survey data is. Some data, like HUD’s Fair Market Rent data, is available primarily at county subdivisions.
  • If you want to search for a county subdivision, you can just type it into the Location search bar. Though it won’t show up in the suggestions menu, if you type the name and state, and press enter, it’ll find it. (They don’t appear in the suggestions menu simply because there are so many geography types, we have to draw the line somewhere to keep the menu from being overwhelming.)
  • Why don’t they show up by default when you zoom in on PolicyMap? Most people want to see the smallest, most granular geography available, and when you zoom in close enough to see county subdivisions, you can generally see census tracts as well (and census tracts get all the glory).
  • We’ve recently made a change to how county subdivisions appear on PolicyMap when you load map boundaries (from that little menu under the map). On the map, the labels used to just give the name, without the legal suffix (so, just “Cheltenham”). Eagle-eyed PolicyMap users will notice that the legal suffix is now displayed as well (“Cheltenham Township”)Subdivisions on the map

County subdivisions (or “cousubs,” as we like to call them) are a pretty great geography type that’s easy to overlook. Next time you want data for a township (or the like), check them out.

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