Visualizations And Analysis From Census Data

  • Your visualizations should include at least 4 aspects of the data (e.g. population, questions, gender, race).
  • You should present data in at least 4 visualizations. These could be the same (e.g. for similar graphs that show different data) or different (data shown in several different visual presentations)
  • The visualizations should stand alone as visual artifacts, so you should include textual titles, a descriptive paragraph, and good captions of your images so anyone who comes to your visualization knows everything they need to understand it.
  • It should be exportable in a high resolution format. Consider using some of the Adobe suite for this, which you can get from terpware.
  • You should include novel, interesting presentations of data that give unique insights beyond what someone could get just plugging data in to excel

Census Exhibit for Priddy Library: Some Resources and Research Questions


  1. Decennial census data: (Links to an external site.) and (Links to an external site.).

This is the main data set I’d like to work with for most of our visualizations.

  1. Broader collection of Census Bureau data: (Links to an external site.)

Includes data from other sources, like the American Community Surveys, which contains a lot more detailed and frequently gathered estimates than the decennial census.

  1. Pew Research Center’s material for background research: (Links to an external site.)

I would recommend signing up for the email course if you can (Links to an external site.). All you have to do is read a series of emails they send you every couple of days, and it teaches you a lot about the census more generally.

Potential Research Questions

Using Recent Census Data (use decennial census data here, not data from the American Community Surveys)

  • What was the distribution of population in the United States in 2010? You can break this down by age, race, or sex if you like. Try to make a visualization that is pretty rich—if you’re showing the whole country, use county-level data. If you’re showing the state of Maryland, use block or tract level data.
  • Which counties (or blocks/tracts) in the United States have the highest concentration of young people? Older folks? Middle aged folks? Which geographic areas have the highest concentration of a given racial or ethnic group?
  • What were the participation rates for the 2010 census by geographic area? Are there any trends or patterns in who participates in the census?
  • What notable changes have occurred in population at the city, county, or state level between 1990 and 2010?

Using Historical Census Data

  • Using historical data from several censuses (or all of them, if you like) tell a story about changing population or demographics with graphics and maps.


On Census Geographies

  • What are the geographic entities used to organize census information (state, county, tract, block, etc)? With a series of maps, can you make it easy for a layperson to understand the geography of the census?
  • How have the census geographies changed over time? In other words, how have the # and sizes of the tracts, blocks, etc. changed as our country has grown? Have these units become larger or smaller in terms of population or land area?
  • Is there a relationship between census geographies and congressional districts? Does a change in one reflect a change in the other?

On the changing structure of the census over time

  • What kinds of information was asked in the 1790 census? How has this information changed over time?

See (Links to an external site.) for more information. You can focus on just one question type, like race (see an example here (Links to an external site.)) or look at a group of questions.

  • How have collection methods changed over time? It would be great to produce a timeline, infographic, or similar that incorporates images and/or descriptions of various forms over the years, culminating with this year’s online form.
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