So you looked for data in this blog, and you still couldn’t get enough of it? Come on in!
This is an informal list of data resources that we use or visit on a fairly regular basis. Since our focus is at the Westchester County level, most of the sources we’ll refer to are at the Westchester County, NY State, or federal level.
By no means is this the be-all and end-all list of Westchester County data. If you have a data source that you would love to see on this list, feel free to let us know about it in the comments. We will make sure that we give you credit for the suggestion(s).
So here we go…
Annie E. Casey’s KIDS COUNT Data Center
If you don’t live in the Westchester County area (or even if you do), this is a good place to start if you want to get data pertaining to children. The site provides kids’ data at the state and county level across the United States. More importantly, if you take the time to browse through their report section, you’ll get a good understanding of why KIDS COUNT’s data matters so much for children.
Council on Children and Families – New York State KWIC
If you want NY children’s data at the state or county level, go here first. Not only can you find and download pertinent data, but you can also create custom charts and maps to help you communicate effectively.
Citizens Committee for Children – Keeping Track Database
OK, this site doesn’t list any Westchester County data, but I want to highlight it for a number of reasons: 1) If you want to get New York City data on children, THIS is the go-to site. 2) When you compare the data that’s available for New York City to the data that’s available for Westchester, you will probably start asking, “Shouldn’t that kind of data be available here?” We’re hoping to move the needle in that direction.
Westchester County Department of Health
PROS – They provide the most comprehensive health data specific to Westchester County and its municipalities. Data is often broken down by race/ethnicity and age group.
CONS-You’ll often find more up-to-date data on the New York State DOH website. In addition, you can only get the data in PDF format (aka the “PDF graveyard.”). This gets a little awkward if you want to actually do something with the data, like build an interactive map. However, new, free tools such as Tabula (tabula.nerdpower.org) can convert data in PDF files into a much more actionable format, like CSV.
New York State Department of Health
PROS – More current data. Much of their data is also in Excel or CSV format. When it isn’t, it’s in an HTML table that you can easily import to Excel anyway.
CONS – It’s often not broken down by age/race/ethnicity, although on occasion you do get lucky. Sometimes you have to search deep inside a category (e.g., birth data is found under “Vital Statistics”) to find the data that you want.
New York State Education Department
There will be three places that you’ll want to visit within NYSED.
- Reportcards.nysed.gov – This is our standard first stop for education data, including attendance/suspension rates and student demographics.
- NYSED Data Reporting – We obtain most other educational data here, including VADIR data (Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting) and district spending data. Sometimes it’s a bit annoying because the links provided often forget to list the most current data, which is why we go to….
- The News Release page – Not the most elegant presentation, but you can often find more detailed and current data on test scores, graduation rates, college readiness rates, and other topics here. NOTE: NYSED usually releases graduation data and test score data sometime around July/August.
US Census Bureau FactFinder
This is your gateway to several US Census products, including the Decennial US Census and the American Community Survey, and our go-to site for demographic and economic data. It can be somewhat quirky in its behavior (e.g., datasets that go temporarily missing, dysfunctional table searches, odd sort orders, etc.). Fortunately, the quirks are mostly annoying, not critical.
Since the US Census is only conducted every ten years, we often use American Community Survey (ACS) data for demographic and economic analysis. You will find it worth your while to get familiar with ACS, so check out the ACS’ Guidance for Data Users. There are several variants of the ACS – each has its strengths and weaknesses.
Unfortunately, ACS data by blockgroup cannot be obtained through FactFinder. If you need it, go straight here, grit your teeth, and go for it. If there’s interest, we may dedicate a blog post to obtaining data at the blockgroup level (let us know in the comments!).
ACS Data is updated at the last quarter of the year.
A group of journalists got together and decided to create a much more user-friendly interface for exploring and downloading US Census data. If they could also do something similar for the American Community Survey, we would be very happy.
US Census Bureau Factfinder
SAIPE – Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates
Another product of the US Census Bureau. If you want to find demographic or poverty data by school district as opposed to by another geographical unit, this is the place to go to. The federal government uses SAIPE data to determine allocation of funds for Title I programs – and for that reason alone, this is a site worth paying attention to.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Look here for county employment and unemployment rates (not seasonally adjusted) for the past 14 months, as well as other workforce data.
New York State Office of Children and Families
You’re more likely to get up-to-date on child abuse and foster care here than anyplace else. The Foster Care data seems to be a bit more comprehensive than the child abuse data, and county-specific data CAN be viewed via the Excel Files – hunt for the cell with the pulldown arrow to select the geography you want.
The ability to visualize data through mapping is a powerful tool. We live in a county where the averages don’t really tell the entire story. Through mapping, we’re able to tell people in an intuitive way the diversity and range of communities that exist within Westchester.
Westchester County Geographic Information Systems – Data Warehouse
This is one amazing place for geographic data relevant to Westchester County. Not only will you find boundary files for census tracts, school districts, and municipalities, but you’ll also be able to map out Westchester public and private schools, parkland, and other public facilities.
In order to map data, you need two things:
- Geography Data – contains information on districts and borders
- Mapping tools – the software you need to actually visualize your data
New York State GIS Clearinghouse
If you’re looking for other NY State geographical data, this is the place to go.
US Census TIGER Files
This site contains Census geographies at a national level. It also has US Congressional District shapefiles.
Google Fusion Tables
Our interactive data maps are all based on Google Fusion Tables. You need to set up a Google account to start. Take the time to go through the “About” section.
ESRI/ArcGIS and GrassGIS
ESRI is the company that makes ArcGIS, a suite of GIS (Geographical Information Systems), that many professional mappers use today. Nonprofits can purchase ArcGIS products at a severely discounted rate through TechSoup. However, if you find even this cost prohibitive, GrassGIS is an open source alternative.
Right now, we are using ArcGIS. It’s particularly handy in cases where we have to build custom geographies, and when we have to produce printed maps (remember paper?) for distribution. We’ve started looking into GrassGIS, and would welcome any comments from people who have successfully (or not so successfully) used the product.
Public government geographical data (e.g., census tracts, state borders) are often released as shapefiles. This online tool allows you to convert shapefiles into Google Fusion Tables. This is a very popular and free tool, which means on occasion you will have to wait a VERY LONG time for the conversion process to end (although it hasn’t been so bad recently). So don’t wait until the day before a deadline to convert files. You have been warned.
Copying and pasting tables from a PDF document can be an incredibly frustrating experience. As soon as we saw this tool online, we knew it would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
If you have a series of Google maps that all need to be centered at the same point (e.g., address, landmark, geographical feature), you will need to know the longitude and latitude of that point. This tool will spit those coordinates out.
Maybe you’ve hit a roadblock and need to see some inspiring examples of ways to present and analyze data. Or perhaps you just need to procrastinate productively. These sites should serve your needs.
The Guardian Data Web Site
New York Times – especially this post.
WNYC Data Blog
This nifty website will unleash your inner online Sherlock. It isn’t really about data – it’s about searching for data and how fun (and frustrating) it can be. If you want to know what online techniques to use if you’re looking for odd bits of information such as Johannesburg taxi signals, or the cost of travelling to Hawaii in 1908, this website is for you.
Take a stab at the weekly Wednesday search challenges – I think it’s a hoot, although I’m still trying to convince my boss that it’s not as geeky as it sounds. One challenge, about counting the number of people in school and the number of years completed, is particularly insightful in its two-part account of how the author solved the problem at hand (Part I and Part II). This blog will encourage you to find datasets of your own in your search for knowledge and information, and that’s not a bad thing at all.