Are Students Included in Census Poverty Rates?

We love receiving questions about data here at PolicyMap! Recently, after releasing the 2009-2013 American Community Survey on PolicyMap, a user reached out with an interesting question: are college students included in Census poverty figures? This is an important consideration because, while many students earn income below the poverty level, this does not necessarily mean they are of low socioeconomic status. Thus, including them in poverty statistics can skew a look at the demographic and economic makeup of a local area.
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Maggie McCullough Profiled by Lincoln Institute

Data-Driven Decision Making

The ability to visualize data – where residents have health insurance, how close they are to a park or library, or who is going through foreclosure – has become prerequisite in citybuilding these days. It’s almost hard to imagine making policy decisions or launching initiatives without big data as a guide. And as Maggie McCullough, founder and President of PolicyMap, made clear in a presentation at the Lincoln Institute last month, the technology is getting better all the time. Read the full profile on the Lincoln Institute blog

Watch Maggie’s presentation on how cities like Philadelphia can use PolicyMap as a platform for strategic planning, land bank activities, and community development.

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Mapchats – Mapping the Way to Fair Housing and Environmental Justice

mapping fair housing

PolicyMap’s popular Mapchats series continues next week when we sit down with MacArthur “Genius” Fellow John Henneberger and Charlie Duncan from the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service. We’ll discuss the pivotal role of maps in their Fair Housing and environmental justice work. Share your story of using maps in your work for a chance to discuss live on the webinar with our distinguished panelists.

Panelists include:

john_hennebergerJohn Henneberger, Co-Founder, Texas Low Income Housing Information Service: John Henneberger received a B.A. (1976) from the University of Texas at Austin. He began his work engaging in and supporting grassroots housing advocacy in 1974 as a volunteer with the Clarksville Neighborhood Center in Austin, Texas, and he co-authored Housing Patterns Study: Segregation and Discrimination in Austin, Texas (1979) for the City of Austin Human Relations Commission. Henneberger led several community development corporations (1979–1988) prior to co-founding the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service (“Texas Housers”) in 1988. Widely respected across a broad spectrum of stakeholders, Henneberger is working to define new standards for fair housing protections and affordable housing. 

charlie_duncanCharlie Duncan, Fair Housing Planner, Texas Low Income Housing Information Service: Charlie Duncan is a fair housing planner with Texas Low Income Housing Information Service. He collects data from federal, state, and local governments and provides research and maps pertaining to housing, neighborhood qualities, and the socioeconomic conditions of municipalities across Texas. His work informs numerous stakeholders in fair housing-related policy including legislators, law firms, community organizations, local and state agencies, academics, and advocates. Before working for fair housing, he was in the biodiesel industry and worked as an audio engineer. He is also a working musician who has been playing drums and percussion for almost 20 years. Charlie graduated summa cum laude from Texas State University with a B.S. in Geography with emphases in GIS and Urban & Regional Planning.

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The Latest Demographics, Income and More Now Available on PolicyMap

New ACS Data

While a few of us at PolicyMap were enjoying the American Community Survey Data Users Conference this week in Washington DC, our developers at 3D-L were hard at work getting the ACS data updated on PolicyMap!

This year’s ACS conference highlighted some fascinating work with ACS data, from trends in marriage rates to the lifecycle of a piece of Census data. PolicyMap’s own Morgan Robinson discussed her process for developing neighborhood-level health indicators using multilevel modeling with ACS data on metropolitan area status, race, age, and income characteristics. You can find all this local health data in our Health menu.

This conference also provided valuable information about exciting developments on the horizon for the ACS (broadband access, anyone?!), as well as the critical need for the geographic visualization tools that we provide to our users.

Meanwhile, thanks to the tireless work of our developers, the 2009-2013 ACS data is now available on PolicyMap for making maps, tables and running reports. Be on the lookout over the next weeks for upcoming posts on what this new data can tell us about socio-economics, health, housing, the economy and more.

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PolicyMap Updates Our Economy Menu

At PolicyMap we think data should be fun. So we organize our menus to allow you to browse and find the data you need. And, at the same time, to discover a few new things about the places you care about.

We’ve heard from users over time that our economy data has been particularly difficult to navigate, so we decided it was high-time we think through how best to present our data on jobs, industries, workforce, and employment. Read on to learn a bit more about what you can find in PolicyMap’s updated Economy menu.

Jobs and Industries: Many people come to PolicyMap for the most granular neighborhood-level data available. Our most local data is the number of jobs by industry sector from the Census’ Local Employment Dynamics (LED). An industry sector represents a category of employment such Retail or Manufacturing. If
you’re looking for data about a more specific industry subsector, such as food and beverage retailers or paper manufacturers, you can find ZIP code level data from the Census’ County Business Patterns.
For our users interested in the broader economy, we have the authoritative jobs and wages data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). Although we are able to offer detailed jobs data at the local level, you can only get county and metro area wage data.

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PolicyMap at the 2015 Commonwealth Housing Forum!

PHFA Housing ConferenceWe’re pleased to be presenting today at Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency’s Commonwealth Housing Forum. If you’re at the conference, be sure to join us at 3:30 today for the session “Tapping into Readily Available Data to Inform and Guide Housing Initiatives.” I’ll be speaking along with Keith Wardrip, Community Development Research Manager of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank. We’re glad to be in such good company and are looking forward to Keith’s discussion of the Fed’s Community Development Dashboard.

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New Metro Areas (Or: What Happened to Poughkeepsie?)

Photo by Bernie Langer

Poughkeepsie, NY (Photo: Bernie Langer)

I went to college in Poughkeepsie, New York, “The Queen City of the Hudson”, about halfway between New York City and Albany. It’s a classic post-industrial city, not quite sure of its current identity. Is it a city? A suburb? A “bedroom community”? If you look up “Upstate New York” on Wikipedia, it’ll tell you the dividing line is Poughkeepsie. The Metro-North commuter railroad ends in Poughkeepsie, an hour and a half ride to Grand Central Terminal.

From 2003 to 2012, Poughkeepsie was the proud principal city of the Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, NY Metropolitan Statistical Area. This MSA was comprised of rural Dutchess and Orange counties, which felt distinctly different from the suburban and urban counties of New York City’s MSA to the south.

Well, as of 2013, the Poughkeepsie MSA is no longer. The Office of Management and Budget redrew the map of CBSAs, and Dutchess and Orange counties have been swallowed up by the massive New York CBSA.

(Acronym reminder: A CBSA is a Core Based Statistical Area. CBSAs consist of MSAs – Metropolitan Statistical Areas – and μSAs – Micropolitan Statistical Areas. That’s a Greek mu in μSA, for those of you who aren’t classicists. Throughout PolicyMap, they’re all labeled as “Metro Areas”.)

The OMB redefines CBSAs every ten years based on changes in population and commuting patterns. A lot are unchanged (such as our stalwart Philadelphia CBSA). Some gained new counties and some lost counties. Some are new, and some (poor Poughkeepsie!) have disappeared.

Until last month, all the CBSA data on PolicyMap was calculated according to the 2003 boundaries. This makes sense, since the data represents time periods before 2013, when these new boundaries were introduced.

Commuters parked at the Poughkeepsie Train Station

Commuters to New York parked at the Poughkeepsie Train Station (Photo: Bernie Langer)

All that changed when the BLS released an update to its local unemployment data. They updated all their data, going back to 1976 (before CBSAs even existed) to be calculated at the new boundaries. And in the coming days, we’ll be updating ACS to the new 2009-2013 data, which, as you guessed, is calculated at the 2013 CBSA boundaries.

A lot of people still have reason to use the old 2003 CBSAs. There’s still a lot of data mapped to them. Some people might want to identify an area (like the Mid-Hudson Valley) that only exists in them. And some people just have an irrational emotional attachment to an old CBSA (Poughkeepsie pride!).

So both the old and new are available in the location search bar on PolicyMap. You’ll see each CBSA followed by parentheses, saying whether it’s a 2003 CBSA, a 2013 CBSA, or both, meaning it wasn’t changed.

Also, worth mentioning: Metropolitan Divisions, which are subsets of some CBSAs, are also updated. You can access those at the bottom of the Metro Area menu in the location bar.

If you do visit Poughkeepsie, make sure to visit the recently opened Walkway Over the Hudson, a pedestrian path on an enormous 19th-century steel truss bridge once used to transport coal from Pennsylvania to New England. The views are amazing, but more importantly, it lets you escape the clutches of the New York MSA, crossing over to the still-independent Kingston, NY MSA.

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#DataPoetry: BLS!

BLS: An annotated ode

Oh {heck} yes!
Labor data?
No need to guess!

No enjoyment.
Causes no annoyment.

Labor force?
Oh of course!
BLS is
the main source.

How big’s your crew?
Many or few?
For jobs and wages
there’s QCEW!

Baking cakes?
Charming snakes?
Ev’ry industry
has a NAICS.

For the best
take nothing less
than the tabular data
at the BLS.

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First Look: New Neighborhood-Level Health Indicators

When it comes to health, “Your ZIP code is more important than your genetic code.” Local disparities in health are a huge concern among people working in public health, environmental justice, and many other fields. Working across disciplines will be essential to resolving these issues. However, the lack of easy-to-understand, fine-grained health data is often a barrier to people who are accustomed to analyzing issues at the neighborhood level, like researchers in community and economic development. The most detailed health data is available only for the nation and states, and a limited set of information is available for counties.

In response to that, we decided to make a set of key health indicators available at a smaller scale. You can now use PolicyMap to visualize a sub-county variation in health, using data from CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

BRFSS Diabetes Tract Map

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PolicyMap #Datapoetry: Features in haiku

For this entry of our series for the National Poetry Month, what better way to try and describe the many (complex) features of PolicyMap than through haiku!

When searching for things.
The location bar works best
with zip and address.

To add some data,
select a category
is where you should start.

Customize data
with choices in the legend.
Change years or colors.

To print your new map,
you have so many options
but just 3 formats.

To share maps somewhere,
embed one on your website
or just email it.

A custom region
are your unique boundaries
just for your own needs.

Tables will compare
data between locations,
query addresses.

Reports can offer
tons of data in one shot.
Just with a few clicks.

A haiku for a
3 Layer Map is simply
just impossible.

Upload your spreadsheet
using the Data Loader,
and display on maps.

For all your questions,
contact our support team now
by phone or by email.

While we can’t simplify everything on PolicyMap into a haiku, we’re happy to help answer any questions you might have. Join any of our training sessions or read any of our guides.

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