PolicyMap #Datapoetry: Data in Action

Next up in our #datapoetry series, we engage in some occupational poetry. In our hectic lives, we rarely have time to contemplate the many special moments we experience when processing our data. If these rhyming couplets prove anything, it’s that there’s magic in the mundane.


Poet W.C. Bryant hard at work on some particularly brilliant SQL code. #inspiration #datapoetry

Our coordinates fixed: WGS 84
We go full speed ahead – pedal pressed to the floor

Lovely lines, pretty points, luscious layers and polys
With your features, metadata and other such follies!

Data types and encoding I must modify
Casting as decimal is what I’ll try

Joins are a key part of any good query
Inner/outer, full, left/right – they all make me cheery!

On the Fly
I’d be hopelessly lost without notepad++
When with scripts, text, or XML I must fuss

Far better to UPDATE than find and replace
But regular expressions do quicken the pace!

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Mapchats – Mapping Food Access


PolicyMap’s Mapchats series continues this Wednesday with Mapping Food Access. Sign up to discover how Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), government agencies and other entities use data to increase access to healthy fresh food in their target areas. Hear from experts in the field who will tell their stories about how and why data and mapping are indispensable to their work around healthy food access.
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Three tools for healthy food access


Understanding challenges to healthy food access is now three times easier with PolicyMap. Check out our new data and tools for evaluating the strength of your community’s access to healthy fresh foods:

1. Mapping Food Access webinar

PolicyMap’s Mapchats series continues next week with  Mapping Food Access.

Learn how to use data to increase access to healthy fresh food in your target area. Hear from experts in the field who will tell their stories about how and why data and mapping are indispensable to their work.

Wednesday, April 22, 2-3 PM EST 

Save your seat →


2. Limited Supermarket Analysis 2014 (LSA)

Use The Reinvestment Fund’s LSA data on PolicyMap to understand the degree of equitable access to healthy foods across the country and to apply for funding for fresh food initiatives.

Healthy Food Financing Initiative funding opportunities, such as HHS’ Community Economic Development program require data-supported descriptions of a community’s needs as a part of the application process, and the LSA data can be an important part of that information. Find it in the Quality of Life tab.

View map of this data →


2. Healthy Food Access Portal’s Research Your Community Tool

Robert Wood Johnson, PolicyLink, The Food Trust and The Reinvestment Fund teamed up with PolicyMap to create the Healthy Food Access Portal’s Research Your Community tool.

This new mapping tool helps individuals and organizations to better understand the communities in which they’re working to improve access to healthy food. Check out data on the map like daily fruit and vegetable consumption, and run a report to get a snapshot of area demographics, food environment, and federal programs and investments.

Check out the tool →

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PolicyMap celebrates National Poetry Month with data poetry

Though we specialize in data, we at PolicyMap get excited about a large number of other things as well. This time around, we’re particularly eager to celebrate National Poetry Month 2015 with a data poetry series! While none of us consider ourselves poets, we all have an appreciation for the arts. Throughout the rest of April, we’ll be workshopping poetry about the topics we’re most passionate about (maps, data sources, data processing) and sharing our finest poems with the world! We are going to kick it off with a poetic salute to the source of more than half of our data: the Census!

Ode to the Census

United States Census, oh, you are divine
Provide us with the demographics of time
Housing units to healthcare, from nation to block
You inform plans and policies around the clock

Do you know the median age in Memphis?
Have no fear, the answer is clear…embrace our beloved Census
Microdata, decennial, or the American Community Survey
You can compile the most beautiful data bouquet!

Whether it’s Factfinder or our old pal DataFerrett
With its historic tables plus a whole heap of merit
What was the 1990 population of Omaha, Nebraska?
How did it compare to Anchorage, Alaska?

Some like to turn to the data API
Program interactive maps and charts on the fly
When we need a number, be it high or low
There’s a reason the Census is the first place we go.

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Changes to BLS’s Local Area Unemployment Statistics

One of our more popular datasets, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS), has undergone some methodological modifications that could affect how you use it. For those of you not interested in hearing the gritty details, the data is now “more gooder”, but newer data is not comparable to data from before January 2010. Also, the metro area data now shows at the new 2013 boundaries.

Roughly every ten years, the LAUS program at the BLS reviews their methodology for calculating unemployment (as well as employment and labor force). This way, the data isn’t locked into a process created decades ago, but evolves with new understanding and available data. Continue reading

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Work with PolicyMap this Summer!

We’re interested in talking to people who want to work with our Data Team to help make PolicyMap as powerful, innovative and indispensable to our users as possible. If you’re looking for a summer job, join our team!

We’re looking for nerds who can work independently and who want to learn a lot. Before you apply, here are some core values that sum up the PolicyMap experience. If this is you, let us know!

Love maps. Needless to say, we are all about maps, and strive every day to make compelling, accurate geospatial representations of the issues our users care about: health, the economy, poverty, housing, you name it.
Not afraid of data. Our fearless data team tackles all types of tangled-up tabular information on the regular! We clean it, process it, turn it into useful indicators, and write descriptions and blogs to help all sorts of people understand and use these important data in their work.
Interest in programming (without the bro). Interns will have a chance to build and hone SQL coding skills, and we have the flexibility to use other programming languages in our work depending on interest and applicability. All within a diverse, nonjudgmental environment where we learn together and have FUN!
Eagle eye for detail. Validation, validation, validation. It’s a huge part of what we do, and precision is super important to us. Is it exhausting? Sometimes. But we think perfection is worth the eye strain. (And when we’re done, we treat ourselves to ice cream!)

You could work here!

You could work here!

We’re in search of undergraduates and recent graduates to help us with our work. Email us your resume and a cover letter if this sounds like a good fit for you!

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Capital Magnet Fund – a New Face in Affordable Housing

Every funding source has a story. Affordable housing construction is often synonymous with big players such as HUD programs such as Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), HOME Investment Partnerships Program, Community Development Block Grant programs; and USDA’s Rural Development program. In 2008, Congress authorized two additional funding streams for affordable housing and related investments as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act: the Capital Magnet Fund (CMF) and the Housing Trust Fund (HTF). These funds, administered by Treasury (though the CDFI Fund) and HUD, respectively, were supposed to be replenished by contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: a small amount of the revenue generated through new government mortgages would be siphoned off and allocated to the Funds. These funds would then be distributed to housing organizations through a competitive process for the purpose of building affordable housing.

Capital Magnet Fun

The Capital Magnet Fund was designed to give capable housing organizations an incentive to continue building affordable housing through a funding mechanism that required limited federal investment. There are significant leveraging requirements for CMF projects: every dollar of a CMF grant must be matched at least 10:1 with other sources of capital. The income limits for the program are also aggressive; all units financed must be affordable for households with income below 120% of area median income (AMI), and at least 51% of project costs must be used for households with income below 80% of AMI. The purpose of these requirements is to “magnetize” capital specifically for affordable housing.

So why haven’t you heard of the Capital Magnet Fund yet? In 2010, when Fannie and Freddie came under conservatorship due to the mortgage crisis, both CMF and HTF got cut off before any money could be allocated. But successful lobbying by housing advocacy groups and CDFIs steered Congress to approve a one-time package of $80 million to the Capital Magnet Fund. This financing was allocated to 23 CDFIs and nonprofit housing agencies (pdf), and we now have access to the locations and project details that resulted from this spending.

Continue reading

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A refreshing update to PolicyMap icons

Update: While we’re not fully ready to implement our Ponycons, we do have some great new features coming to PolicyMap this year. Look for better printing options and an easier data download function coming in 2015. We greatly appreciate your feedback and comments!

At PolicyMap, we are always continuing to update how users can better utilize the tool. We receive feedback from our users, reaching out to our users for comments, and occasionally poll what our users are asking to have.

To stay fresh and new, we have to always look forward. So today, we are releasing our latest upgrade to PolicyMap.

We all learned how to make emoticons on our keyboards, a simple combination of characters produced a mixture of emotions; happy :-), sad :-(, surprised :O, cheer \o/, and more. With our smartphones came emoji icons which gave us even more ways to better express ourselves in simple pictograms.

starscraft_ii_by_liggliluff-d59d89bWe are happy to update our icons on PolicyMap to Ponycons! We realize that the icons on PolicyMap might lack a certain panache and flair, so with feedback from our users and careful research we found that My Little Ponies can easily depict most datasets.

We’ve started rolling this update out with everyone’s favorite, Rainbow Dash and what better dataset then to have Head Start Locations. Check it out below.
4-1-2015 1-36-40 PM
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Persistent Poverty on a Neighborhood Scale

While the incidence of poverty has been increasing for the nation as a whole, there are a number of communities that have experienced high poverty rates for decades. The element of time is in fact critical in determining appropriate interventions for impoverished communities. A place with a high level of poverty last year but not this year is in much better shape than a neighborhood facing high poverty for multiple decades in a row. Identifying areas of long-term, concentrated poverty is important because it can be related to other issues such as poor housing and health conditions, higher crime rates, poor child development and educational outcomes, and employment dislocation.

Given the importance of this issue, we’ve added persistent poverty data at the census tract level to PolicyMap. While we’ve had county-level persistent poverty data from the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund available for some time now, this new data provides users with a more granular look at neighborhoods facing long-term poverty.
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PolicyMap at ACRL – Booth #174

portland-acrlAre you attending the upcoming ACRL conference in Portland, OR on March 25-28?

Stop by booth #174, to find out why a growing number of universities are subscribing to PolicyMap, the web’s largest (and most affordable) one-stop shop for community data and mapping.

Use PolicyMap to easily find, visualize, and share data that’s essential for:

Research in a variety of disciplines:

  • Social sciences
  • Urban planning
  • Public policy
  • Public health
  • Education
  • Business administration
  • and many more!

University and library administration:

  • Strategic planning
  • Government and alumni relations
  • Community outreach and engagement
  • Economic development
  • Competitive grant applications

If you’re not sure what to do in Portland, ACRL has created a great welcome video!

Stop by BOOTH #174 and learn more about PolicyMap!

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