New Download Feature on PolicyMap

Here at PolicyMap, we have always provided our carefully curated data indicators in an easy-to-use format to our users through our Maps, Tables and Reports.  However, with the advancements made over the past decade in online mapping and data visualization tools, of which PolicyMap has been an integral part, we’re adapting our subscription to respond to our users’ evolving needs for data.  We know that our data is incredibly useful to PolicyMap users when accessed through PolicyMap tools alongside other data viz and presentation applications.  Keeping PolicyMap’s offering current with the trends we’re seeing in the online data visualization space, we’re opening the doors to our trove of over 37,000 data indicators by releasing a new Download feature.  Our Download feature allows subscribers to download files from our list of authoritative indicators at all geography levels, from block level to nation.  The Download feature is accessed in our Maps, Tables and 3 Layer Maps through a button in the top right corner of each page alongside print, email, embed and save:

Our new Download feature allows you to specify what area you want, at what geography you need, to generate comma-separated values (csv) files flexible enough to use in Excel, Word, Powerpoint, Access and other mapping tools.

So what’s a csv file?  Csv files are also known as flat files.  Essentially, each data value in the file is separated by commas, with no additional formatting, which is what makes a csv so versatile.  Layer data csv files from PolicyMap, when viewed in Excel, for instance, show every row in the spreadsheet as a geography such as a state or Census Tract along with the associated data column.  Here is an example of a csv file of state data for the percent of the population that is “foreign born”:

We provide two columns of FIPS codes: one formatted column and one unformatted column so that our data can be used in a variety of other database and mapping applications.

Point data csv files from PolicyMap when viewed in Excel, on the other hand, show every row in the spreadsheet as a location along with associated columns of information such as address, owner, and any attributes about that location.  Here is an example of a csv file of locations of farmers’ markets:

For our experienced users, we’re also releasing a bonus feature within our Download tool: the ability to download point datasets joined with layer information.   Our Points with Layer Data feature produces a point data csv file that includes a column for the FIPS geography in which each point sits as well as a column for the indicator information.  Here’s an example of how the Points with Layer Data feature works: say you’re trying to determine if investments you’re making fall within CRA Eligible Census Tracts.  To do this, you could upload and geocode your investment locations using our Data Loader, view the locations on a Map of CRA Eligible Tracts, and download your investment locations tagged with the Census Tract in which they sit and a column indicating whether or not the Tract in which they sit is a CRA Eligible Census Tract.  Here’s what a file like that would look like:

Although the Layer and Points files arrive via your browser, the Points with Layer data files come to you via email (unless you’re accessing PolicyMap through an enterprise/site license and are not logged in).  All downloaded data files are saved to your My Saved Work.

Although our new Download feature is new to Maps and Tables, we’ve kept the same 3 Layer Maps Download feature that is indispensable to our users.  We’ve simply updated the interface so that downloading from 3 Layer Maps is familiar, but easier to use.


So what are the caveats?  We’ve worked hard to minimize them.  You may notice that a very small subset of our indicators aren’t available for download.  You can check whether the data you wish to download is restricted by referring to our Data Matrix (in the new “Download” column) and Data Directory, but chances are it isn’t.  Any indicators prohibited from being downloaded are restricted because they are proprietary data that our vendors forbid us from redistributing.  But 98% of our indicators are freely available for download at all geographic levels and locations.  The only other caveats involve block and blockgroup level downloads. Fine print: block level data downloads are only ever allowed state by state.  Plus, our Points download in 3 Layer Maps is only available state by state, and is not available for block level downloads.  We’re pushing the limits of data querying on the internet with these features, and we’re proud to be the only web-based mapping tool to offer the point with layer functionality.  As soon as technological resources catch up to our demands, we’ll allow for all types of downloads for the nation.


A note to users who are looking for shape files:

For advanced users seeking to join the csv to a shape file with GIS software such as ArcGIS, the data can be joined with shape files of the standard boundaries from the US Census TIGER/Line Files, such as Census tracts and counties, using the included FIPS code. Note that some GIS software may not recognize the “FIPS Code” column as text or “Formatted FIPS” at all. Try opening the csv in Microsoft Excel and save it as an xls file (not as an xlsx). This should make it usable in ArcGIS.

For point mapping, X, Y coordinates (also known as “lat/lons”) are not included in our downloadable csv files, so point datasets will need to be geocoded using a geocoding service.  However, we provide any address information associated with the file to help you with that.


Detailed questions about how to download the data you need?  Contact us! Ready to subscribe to start downloading data?  Sign up now!