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

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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.

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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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Celebrating Farmers’ Market Data -and much more- from USDA

Just in time for 2014 National Farmers’ Market Week, August 3 – 9, we have updated data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers’ Market Directory on PolicyMap. The Directory is a project of the Agricultural Marketing Service, an agency that runs programs to increase awareness of agricultural products at home and abroad. Last Friday, August 1st, PolicyMap continued its participation in NYU GovLab’s Open Data 500 series of roundtables by visiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C, home to its very own farmers’ market:

The USDA Farmers' Market is next to a low- food access tract, according to ERS
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It Turns Out, Everyone Loves Education Data

I spent last week at the National Center for Education Statistics STATS-DC Data Conference in Washington. Unlike Comic-Con, at this conference, heroes came costumed as agency administrations and data researchers. A large majority of the attendees were school administrators faced with the herculean task of collecting all sorts of mandated data from their districts. The rest of us were data users saying, “We want more data! More data please!”

The conference opened with a keynote speech by Catherine Lhamon, the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education. She talked about the Civil Rights Data Collection produced by the Office for Civil Rights. The CRDC is a really great dataset we’re hard at work trying to get on PolicyMap. It has really interesting stuff at the school level, like number of disciplinary events (broken down by race and sex), AP classes offered, sports and arts programs offered, teacher salaries, and tons more. It’s cool stuff.

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Map the Meal Gap Data

There is new data on PolicyMap! Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap project has provided 2012 food insecurity data on the state and local level. The data contains information regarding child food insecurity rates, percentage of food insecure persons eligible for nutrition assistance programs, and the average cost per meal. Together, this describes hunger beyond the homeless and poverty stricken.

So, what is food insecurity? Map the Meal Gap is a part of the movement to change how people view and approach the issue of hunger in the US. Instead of concentrating on the Continue reading

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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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