Welcome Jonah Taylor to the PolicyMap team!

We are thrilled to welcome Jonah Taylor to the PolicyMap team as our new User Interface (UI) Designer! We first met Jonah while he was as an intern with The Reinvestment Fund’s communications department. During his internship, Jonah became key in helping us undertake our first major (and award winning!) UI redesign effort.

In this new role, Jonah’s design responsibilities will span all brand touchpoints associated with the PolicyMap user and customer experience, including UI of geospatial/mapping products and design of digital marketing initiatives – helping to make everything we do a bit more human-friendly.

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Statement Regarding PolicyMap’s Practice of Dark Arts

Fridays have become a lot more fun at PolicyMap, thanks to Christopher Ingraham and the Washington Post’s Wonkblog. His new weekly feature, “Name That Data” has struck a competitive chord in us we didn’t know we had. In Name That Data, Wonkblog posts a map of something in the United States, and the participants have to guess what the map is showing.

Last week, Ingraham awarded us the title of Data Wizards/Ninjas/Unicorns/Whatevs for guessing a map of the rate of people who have never been married. This week, we were ready, checking Wonkblog all day on Friday waiting for the latest Name That Data entry to be posted. At around noon, we sprung into action, and once again, found the answer most expeditiously. So expeditiously, in fact, that Ingraham suggested that we were working with the aid of dark arts to derive our answer.


Did we use dark arts? Believe me, I tried. But our fearless leader, Maggie McCullough, found the right map by intuition before I could even light the candles.

As you might imagine, we have a pretty deep database of geographic data over here. As soon as the map was posted, I delved into our internal Census database, looking for the right number. In a victory for fair play, however, my cheating-ish search came up empty. So we went back to, you know, looking at the map.

Our first thought was, this probably isn’t Census data, since the post hints that it’s a rate of something (not of people). The next thing that struck us was the stark contrasts that existed at some state borders, like Pennsylvania and Ohio, and Iowa and Illinois. This is usually a sign that the data is collected by the states, or is somehow influenced by differences in state laws. I suggested that it might the amount deducted on tax returns for state and local taxes. And seconds later, Maggie had it: Percent of tax returns with the student loan deduction.

Kudos to Wonkblog commentator RP_McMurphy, who used a similar line of thought to come up with a close guess, and was declared this week’s Data Wizard/Ninja/Unicorn/Whatevs.

So with two weeks of awards under our belts, do we plan on retiring from this game? Not a chance. But in the interest of fair play, we pledge not to use dark arts/our database to get the answer, as devious as that would be.

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Exploring Foreclosure data in Chicago

Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood has been struggling with depopulation, violent crime, and a host of other urban ailments for decades.  This summer, the City of Chicago is attempting to implement an intriguing new strategy to stem these long trends towards neglect by leveraging one of the neighborhood’s most valuable assets, homeowners.  Chicago plans to sell city owned properties for $1 to local homeowners who already have a stake in their communities. Homeowners who live in the community would presumably be willing to invest their money and efforts to improve their neighborhood.  The Large Lot Program would have provisions that prevent homeowners from reselling the property for at least five years, while being encouraged to beautify the lot by adding community gardens or other open green spaces.  You can read more about the program in this link.


With a PolicyMap subscription, you can view point level data of Chicago-area foreclosures, which would be critical for measuring the success of initiatives such as the Large Lot Program in Chicago.  The Standard and Premium PolicyMap subscriptions will grant you access to our licensed data, as well as allow you to use our Reports, Mapping Analytics, and Data Download tools.  With a subscription, you can upload your organization’s own data to PolicyMap, and analyze it against any of our hundreds of indicators.  You can check out our subscription options by following the link posted here.

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PolicyMap Named Data Wizards/Ninjas/Unicorns/Whatevs by Wonkblog!

It was a Friday afternoon like any other, until #NameThatData came along. Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Posts’s Wonkblog posted a map of the United States with data, without saying what the data was. The contest was to see who could correctly name the data on the map.

Spoiler alert: We won.

When we saw the contest, we sprung into action. How could we not?

We started with some quick guesses. The dense arc through the south suggested African American population. But then what’s going on in New England? Could be obesity. But then Colorado should look better. Interestingly, our initially guesses mirror the same guesses hashed out at Ingraham’s follow-up post with the answer. Continue reading

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Map NSP Target Areas On PolicyMap

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) is a federal program that provides assistance to state and local governments to acquire and redevelop foreclosed and abandoned properties that might otherwise become sources of blight to their communities. As a part of the program, grantees picked target areas in which to focus their efforts. The criteria for identifying target areas were very specific and many grantees turned to PolicyMap for the data to complete their applications. NSP-approved target areas for communities throughout the country are now available on PolicyMap.

This update may be of particular interest to those who work with the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). Amendments to CRA regulations now allow favorable CRA consideration for activities supporting stabilization efforts in communities with high foreclosure levels. For more information about the CRA and the 2014 updated CRA eligibility data on PolicyMap click here. And if you would like to learn more about the new CRA guidelines with respect to NSP check out the Federal Reserve webinar here.

To date there have been three rounds of NSP funding, referred to as NSP1, NSP2 and NSP3. Now all the local NSP target areas from each allocation can be displayed on PolicyMap. The data are available under Federal Guidelines > U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Find out where NSP foreclosure programs are focused in your area.

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Mapping SBA-Approved Microlenders

Microlending is the practice of providing small loans to low-income people to start small businesses. Grameen Bank, founded in Bangladesh in 1983, was a pioneer in microfinance, generally providing small loans to the rural poor. While the practice has become extremely popular globally, microfinance has only recently joined the arsenal of financing options for small business owners and would-be entrepreneurs in the U.S.

Microlending in the United States got an official boost in 2009, with the passage of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Through ARRA, the Small Business Administration received $54 million specifically for its Microloan Program, which distributes loans under $50,000. We have recently added the locations of organizations participating in the Microloan Program to PolicyMap.
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2014 CRA Eligibility Status Updated on PMap!

The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was passed by Congress in 1977 to encourage banks to extend credit to low- and moderate-income Americans. The Act was a response to redlining, a common practice involving systematically denying credit or increasing the costs of banking services to communities based on income, race or other discrimination. CRA requires that financial institutions undergo periodic evaluations to determine whether they are meeting the credit needs of the communities in which they operate, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Tracts are CRA eligible if they are low- or moderate-income, or if they are nonmetropolitan middle income tracts designated by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) as distressed or underserved.

The CRA Eligibility and the Tract Median Family Income as a percent of Area Median Family Income data, both of which can found in the Federal Guidelines tab under Additional Federal Guidelines Data, have now been updated to 2014. It is also worth noting that this was the first year that the FFIEC provided distressed and underserved tracts for American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S Virgin Islands! The map below shows the CRA eligibility status for census tracts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. You can see that Puerto Rico has a number of tracts that are not CRA eligible, as well as a mix of those that are Low Income, Moderate Income, Middle Income Distressed and Middle Income Distressed and Underserved.
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New Health Indicators on PolicyMap

With a growing concern for health in the nation, people are looking at factors that may contribute to a healthy life style. You, too, can look at trends in health related behaviors! PolicyMap has added three new health indicators from the Census County Business Patterns: Fitness and Rec Centers, Fast-food Restaurants, and Liquor Stores. The data consists of the annual counts and rates per 100,000 people from 2003 to 2012.

As a whole, the US has more than 72 fast food restaurants per 100,000 people as of 2012, an 18% increase from 2003. Liquor stores and gyms increased at about 11% and 6% respectively. The data shows that the number of fast food establishments is growing at a rate three times faster than the number of gyms. Could this be contributing to our nation’s rising rates of obesity and diabetes? You may have to look more closely at these health determinants and indicators, region by region, to find out.

These indicators can help paint the picture of the overall health in the US. The map below shows the number of fitness and rec centers per 100,000 people in 2012 in the Northeast. New England has consistently higher rates than the national average. Are New Englanders going to the gym more often than the rest of the country? To what extent does this affect the health of this area? These maps can help us gain a better understanding of these trends, but cannot answer these questions in full. However, the higher concentration of gyms can be one of many factors for the low rates of obesity in the Northeast.

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PolicyMap at NACCHO!

PolicyMap has been excited to exhibit this week at the National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO) conference! Public health officials and practitioners from around the country have shown great interest in learning how PolicyMap can be a useful tool to streamline their data and mapping needs. Whether tracking health indicators over time, analyzing health risks and preparedness, or uploading patient data to better understand your clientele, PolicyMap can be a great asset for health departments and organizations. PolicyMap is also a simple way to pull much of the data needed for your Community Health Needs Assessment.

If your health department is looking for an easy and affordable way to access thousands of indicators, upload your own data, and easily share it all throughout your organization, send us an email today!

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Support Activities for Lumberjacks

There is one class of men in this country that never is mentioned in song.
And now, since their trade is advancing, they’ll come out on top before long.
They say that our sailors have danger, and likewise our warriors bold,
But there’s none know the life of a driver, what he suffers with hardship and cold.

So begins the Newfoundland folk ballad, The Badger Drive, which describes the work of the lumber drive near the town of Badger, in Newfoundland. If you haven’t had your daily dose of Newfoundland folk music, here is the song in its entirety:

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