Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New "Census Reporter" Offers Easy Access To Most Recent ACS Data

There's a new tool available, particularly intended for journalists, that helps pull together census related data from the most recent American Communities Survey (ACS). Sponsored by the Knight Foundation, the new tool, called Census Reporter was developed to make it easier for journalists to write stories using information from the U.S. Census Bureau. Place profiles and comparison pages provide a friendly interface for navigating data, including visualizations for a more useful first look.

Using Census Reporter is fairly easy.  When you go to the website you really have three options: you can search for profile information by the name of a particular location; you can search for specific tables from the ACS for a particular location; or you can browse tables topically and select which one you'd like to see by location. Each of these options has various benefits, and all have the ability to download the data afterwards. For example, when you look at the profiles, you can pull up the local data and see how it compares to the state and federal statistics. In addition, the profiles option allows you to look specifically at data for your current location by clicking a button and giving your computer permission to share where you are!

Click to Enlarge

The site is not without its limitations however. I have yet to find a way to look at multiple locations at the same time, which means comparing across similar areas isn't possible yet, and I haven't found a way to change the database I am using for generating the statistics. It defaults to the most recently released data available over the smallest number of years - meaning IF you wanted to use the 5 year estimates from the ACS for a county that has a one year estimate out there, you're out of luck! It ONLY gives you the 1 year estimate stats. That's ok, but sometimes you might want the 5 year estimates.

Regardless, the Census Reporter is a very slick tool and might be helpful for a quick look at recent ACS data.