ArcMAP – Census Basics
The value of the US decennial census is that it charts important social trends over time and space. It does so consistently and fairly so we can make comparisons over timer and space. Local decision-makers, real-estate developers, and designers need not only reliable estimates of overall trends, but also spatial specific estimates that enable comparisons with neighboring communities, the state, and the nation. Without reliable, consistent, and spatially comparable census data, we are unable to design creative solutions to complex regional challenges. In my class you are asked to look at three decades of census data (1990, 2000, and 2010) for the following socioeconomic and demographic variables: population per square mile, race and ethnicity, and poverty rates. You are also tasked with looking at the trends across all three decades for a variable of your choosing. The following videos will demonstrate the critical steps in using National Historic GIS (NHGIS) census data. If you are interested in more advanced uses of census data in GIS or need additional help in understanding census datasets, I recommend you read the following books:
- Peters, A., & MacDonald, H. (2004). Unlocking the Census with GIS. Redlands, CA: ESRI Press.
- MacDonald, H. I., & Peters, A. H. (2011). Urban Policy and the Census. BOOK, Esri Press. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=HI-_cQAACAAJ
Additional information can be found at the following websites:
If you are student in UW-Madison Land Arc 462 Regional Design studio I have provided you all the requisite census GIS data for your assignment. However, if you are interested in acquiring different census data, you can do so in the following locations:
- https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml – FactFInder is the official US Census website. However, I find it hard to navigate and search their website. Additionally, their data downloads are hard to use and requiring additional processing to obtain useful information.
- https://www.nhgis.org/ – I encourage my students to obtain US Census data from the National Historic GIS (NHGIS) organization at the University of Minnesota. NHGIS has the same data as FactFinder, but their website is easier to navigate and search. They process the data so use in GIS software is intuitive and easy. They also have tutorial videos for how to use their website.
The tutorials are organized as follows, you will have to repeat this process for each decade and level of geographic unit (block and block group) in order to complete your assignment:
- Overview of census data shapefiles and tabular data
- Overview of metadata and field codes
- Adding tabular data to ArcGIS
- Minimizing data – select by location
- Joining spatial and tabular data
- Calculating population density
- Visualizing census data in 2D
- Visualizing census data in 3D