Home sale data for 2013 now available on PolicyMap!

PolicyMap recently updated our home sale data to include 2013 transactions. The data include information on how many home sales occurred in your neighborhood, city or county. It also includes the median sales price of those transactions, and the loan-to-value ratio, which compares the value of the first mortgage taken out on a home to the sales price.

Our home sale data is one of the most popular datasets we have because these statistics are so important to understanding the real estate market in an area. Annual data are available from 2006 through 2013, but we also offer a 5-year trend indicator that allows you to look at trends in home sales from 2001 to 2006.

The two maps below compare the 5-year trends in home sale prices in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area. The first shows the percent change in the median sales from 2001 to 2006. The areas on the map that are darker purple indicate that sales prices have gone up the most – more than a 125% increase in five years. The lighter purple areas on the map also saw increases in sales prices but at lower rates. The pattern in fairly clear; greater sales price increases occurred in the eastern half of Washington DC, in Prince George’s County Maryland (to the east of the City), and some parts south and west of D.C.Map0106 Continue reading

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Low Income Housing Tax Credit Data Updated on PolicyMap!

One of our most popular datasets, Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) projects, has been updated on PolicyMap! The LIHTC program is an indirect federal subsidy used to finance the development of affordable rental housing for low-income households. It provides tax incentives to encourage individuals, corporate investors, and banks to invest in the development, acquisition, and rehabilitation of affordable rental housing. According to one estimate, the LIHTC program has helped to finance the development of more than 2.4 million affordable rental housing units since its inception in 1986. The data, released annually by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), now includes all projects that have been placed in service through 2012. Use the map below to explore LIHTC projects in your local area!
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Developing an Arts and Culture Hub, with Data

Exploring Our Town

CultureBlocks profiled in Exploring Our Town, NEA’s showcase of best practices

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently showcased a study by Drexel researchers exploring cultural assets in the Mantua, Powelton and West Powelton neighborhoods in West Philadelphia. The report, A Fragile Ecosystem (pdf), describes a neighborhood with lots of resident artists, dense artistic clusters along major commercial corridors, and tons of regional cultural amenities close by. This report was of particular interest to me, as one of this area’s newest residents. (My roommate and I moved in on Sunday. Once I finish hanging curtains and weeding the backyard, it will be home.)

If you open the report and look closely, you’ll see virtually all the facts and figures in the tables and maps come from CultureBlocks, a free arts and culture mapping tool powered by PolicyMap. Personally, I have used this site to scope out the local arts nonprofits, galleries, and meeting places in my new neighborhood. But this data-rich tool isn’t just for the casually interested Philadelphian; it’s a powerful tool for anyone who is interested in cultivating neighborhood cultural amenities, including funders, developers, and local organizations.

CultureBlocks has also been highlighted by National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in its Exploring Our Town showcase of creative placemaking projects. Exploring Our Town features projects from throughout the U.S. that offer practitioners nationwide examples of successful arts-based community development work.

The NEA profile poses the question, “How can a web tool be developed to help people understand the relationship between cultural engagement and economic development?” One of the issues highlighted in the Drexel report is that public investment in cultural amenities in Mantua/Powelton is comparatively low, even though the area has one of the highest concentrations of resident artists. The availability of this cultural data all in place has made exploring these research questions easier, and may facilitate more cultural partnerships as developments such as the University City High School site evolve. CultureBlocks features data from the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy (OACCE) and the University of Pennsylvania’s Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP). We will be updating the source data over the next two months. Read more about CultureBlocks on our blog.

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Detailed Cancer Rates by State and County from the CDC

Cancer is one of the most common diseases in the United States: approximately 40 percent of all people will be diagnosed with some type of cancer during their lifetime. Many health agencies monitor cancer trends; among them is the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program. SEER measures cancer incidence – the number of new cases diagnosed – as well as survival statistics and mortality. The newest data on PolicyMap is state and county cancer rates and cases, provided by SEER and CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR). The rates are based on 2006 – 2010 reporting years. Data are not available in several states that do not participate in the SEER registry. Additionally, counties where fewer than 16 cases were recorded are excluded from the data.
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Amigos Offers PolicyMap to Member Libraries!

PolicyMap is excited to announce a new partnership with Amigos, a nonprofit member-led and member-focused organization dedicated to serving libraries throughout the country. Amigos Library Services now offers PolicyMap access to all its member libraries at a discounted rate.

Library administrators, reference specialists, students, businesses and government agencies can use PolicyMap to make better decisions on how to best serve the needs of community and develop strategic plans by integrating market and demographic data. For more information see http://www.amigos.org/node/2753.amigos

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Lyme Disease Data Now On PolicyMap

The Tick... in PolicyMap colors!

The Tick… in PolicyMap colors!

I like to go hiking. Whenever I get the chance, I go for a walk through the Wissahickon woods in northwestern Philadelphia. Deep in the forest, you forget you’re in a city. It’s wonderful. Except, if you’re not careful, it’s kind of dangerous.

Ticks carrying Lyme disease are all over some parts of the country, and we’ve just loaded data from the CDC showing where Lyme disease is most prevalent.

Rarely do we find a map showing such a clear geographic trend. In the Mid-Atlantic, New England, and upper Midwest, Lyme disease is a big issue. Four of the top five counties of reported cases are in the Philadelphia area: Chester, Bucks, and Montgomery in Pennsylvania, and New Castle in Delaware.

Lyme disease can affect joints, heart, and the central nervous system; people living in areas infested by deer ticks need to check their skin thoroughly after being in the woods. Of course, there are other tick-borne illnesses in other parts of the country, like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which is even more dangerous, but less prevalent, than Lyme.

In order to spot the Lyme disease data, you have to inspect all of the Health menu very carefully, because the indicator is quite small and easy to miss. It’s in Physical Health > Infectious Disease > Other > Lyme Disease.

Image credit: thetick.ws
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Food Insecurity Data In the News

From Philadelphia to Ohio to South Dakota, food insecurity has been a hot topic in the news since the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its Household Food Security in the United States in 2013 report. For those of you wondering what food insecurity is, it refers to the USDA’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. In light of the focus on this important topic right now, we wanted to take the opportunity to make sure our users are aware of the new food insecurity data on PolicyMap. The data can be found under Additional Income and Spending Data in the Incomes & Spending tab. It comes from Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap project.
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If You’re a Student Reading This Post, You Should Be a PolicyMap Intern

PolicyMap is looking for interns. People who like data, like maps, and aren’t afraid of a little bit of coding. Maybe know a little SQL, maybe worked a bit with Access, maybe excel at Excel. Ever look at a map, and then realize you’ve lost the last half hour of your life? Then consider being a PolicyMap intern.

As soon as they arrive, our interns are part of the data team, discussing new indicators, offering input, processing data, and writing blog posts. They’re given guidance, but also independence to complete projects that interest them, and when they’re done, the data goes online.

As an intern, you learn a lot of fun stuff. We spend a lot of time writing SQL code to process our databases. We have weekly meetings with the whole data team to go over tips for working in SQL. Often these meetings have ice cream. Interns also get to geocode, which is basically spending hours searching maps for specific places. It’s part scavenger hunt, part Lewis and Clark-style exploring (no exaggeration at all). You learn a lot about American geography. And most importantly, with this internship, you learn great organizational and workflow skills that can help you with all sorts of other things in life (it’s been great for my photography hobby).

We asked one of our outgoing interns, Adam, to write a bit about his experience:

“It has been a great experience.  I’ve learned how to harness my query writing skills to submit datasets to my whim, how to geocode points in any corner of this country, and how to present information in a way that is useful to people. There has been an explosion in the amount of data available, but it takes a delicate hand to extract something valuable from it.”

So what does it take to be a PolicyMap intern? We love it when our interns come in with some experience using Excel, Access, SQL, ArcMap, and/or the internet. But some of our best interns didn’t have all these skills when they started, but they had a good working aptitude for technology, and an enthusiasm to learn these different platforms. Also, interns with good writing skills are great contributors to the blog.

Chances are, if you’re a student reading our blog, you’re probably a good candidate to be our intern. Or, if you’re a professor, or know some students that might like working here, pass this on to them. Click here to see the job posting, with information on how to apply.

Also, it’s a really good internship if you like ice cream.

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FY 2014 HUD Low and Moderate Income Summary Data on PolicyMap!

Since many of our users come to PolicyMap for eligibility data, we always strive to keep our Federal Guidelines tab as up-to-date as humanly possible. With the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) recent release of the FY2014 Low and Moderate Income Summary Data (LMISD), the underlying data used to determine Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) eligibility, we worked hard to make this update available on PolicyMap as soon as possible. We are pleased to announce that you can now find LMISD block group estimates of the number and percent of persons at three income levels: Low Income (up to 50% Area Median Income), Moderate Income (up to 80% Area Median Income), and Medium Income (up to 120% Area Median Income). These data are in the new “CDBG Eligibility FY2014” section of the Federal Guidelines tab.

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New point-level Community College and 4-Year University Data

“In the coming years, jobs requiring at least an associate degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs requiring no college experience. We will not fill those jobs – or keep those jobs on our shores – without the training offered by community colleges.” – President Barack Obama

During Barack Obama’s tenure as President, he has continually stressed the need for strengthening our nation’s community college system, pledging to boost federal funding by $12 billion over a 10 year period. As America enters an increasingly competitive global economy, our higher education system will need to keep pace with other nations. Meanwhile, American student loan debt has now climbed north of a $1 trillion, raising concerns that college students will delay homeownership and starting a family as a result of the burden. Issues related to higher education are deeply significant to our country, and require greater examination from policy-makers.

PolicyMap just introduced a comprehensive point-level data for both Community Colleges and 4-Year Colleges and Universities, originating from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). You can now see institutions of higher learning mapped out geographically, each with a wealth of descriptive indicators. Data for institutions of higher education includes:

- Contact information
- Categorical information
- Tuition
- Enrollment, retention, and graduation rates
- Demographics

Our filter feature allows you to extract just the information you need. Are you only looking for public universities with 20,000+ students with retention rates of 70-89% that offers Medical degrees? PolicyMap has you covered. You can also take advantage of our color-code feature to make your map coherent. The map below shows the distribution of colleges by Institutional Control (Public, Private, etc.) distinguished by color.

You can find the data under our Education tab, so come see for yourself!

Data mapped by PolicyMap, an online GIS mapping tool.

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