Dive Into Public Records With Data Visualization Website


Just because data is public doesn’t mean it’s actually easy to access for the common citizen. Sure, you could search through spreadsheets of census data on arcane government websites and nonprofit databases, but those numbers probably won’t mean all that much to you on their own—and you’ll probably have to comb through a number of different sources.

A new site called Data USA bills itself as “the most comprehensive visualization of U.S. public data” and aims to make open data more user-friendly. The site—designed by a professor from MIT Media Lab’s Macro Connections, data viz company Datawheel, and the consulting company Deloitte—allows you to explore the nation by pulling from data sources like the Census Bureau, the Department of Education, national health rankings, and more. With that information, Data USA helps you create data visualizations and breakdowns on topics as diverse as local commute times, a state’s most popular college majors, the average age of podiatrists nationally, and the highest paid construction-related occupations.

You can search the site through four different categories: location, industry, occupation, and education. If you search Phoenix, Arizona, for instance, this is what you’ll see:

You can scroll through to dig deeper into the data, and see it visualized in maps and charts. This map, for instance, shows where residents of Phoenix from other countries originated:

If you search education statistics, you can see how certain types of degrees fare in the workforce:

A maps section of the site visualizes county-by-county data across the U.S. for characteristics like homeownership, HIV rates, and more. The graph below depicts how the country breaks down by median age.

The designers behind Data USA have solved most of the headaches involved with tracking down national statistics. They’ve gathered individual datasets from all the separate corners of the web where they were sequestered, creating a big-picture view of demographics, economics, education, and more. And they’ve made it clean enough—and pretty enough—for the average person to drop in and understand. So a journalist could come to the site to get a snapshot of a county with peculiar voting habits for an election story, but a kid looking at out-of-state colleges could research her new potential home just as easily. All the data gathering and visualization has been done for you. Now all that's left is to analyze what it all means.

Go play with it yourself at datausa.io.

All images via Data USA