This guide lists and describes online sources that provide data typically in a csv or shapefile format at a local scale, specifically the United States census tract. A census tract generally encompasses a population between 2,000 to 8,000 residents. Given empirical, software, data, and theoretical advancements, social scientists are utilizing more flexible geographic scales to measure the neighborhood environment. However, as a convenient source used by various stakeholders for making decisions at the local level, census tracts are still quite relevant in research, policy and applied practice. Below are online data sources organized by topic or theme.
Comprehensive neighborhood data sources
Decennial Census and American Community Survey
The Census represents the most comprehensive source for demographic and socioeconomic data at the census tract level. You can download tract level data from the following sources
You can download Census tract shapefiles (and other spatial data formats) at the following sites
If you want to evaluate tract characteristics over a long time period, you’ll need to account for changes in tract boundary definitions. Social explorer allows you to get historical census data in 2010 tract boundaries. Other resources for getting data normalized to a certain year’s boundary definition include
The following datasets provide health related indicators at small scale geographies.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
HUD offers a plethora of lower geographic scale datasets on a variety of housing, built environment, and socioeconomic indicators for the country or select Metropolitan Areas. The main data splash page for the HUD is located here. Many of the datasets provide indicators of HUD funding, such as tracts that qualify for Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. They also provide Fair Area Market Rents at the zip code level, and georeferenced data located on their eGIS open data portal, which includes point level information.
Work commuting patterns
The Opportunity Atlas is an an interactive, map-based tool that can trace the root of outcomes, such as poverty and incarceration, back to the neighborhoods in which children grew up. The atlas, in a nutshell, shows “Which neighborhoods in America offer children the best chances of climbing the income ladder?” You can view the tool and download all the census tract data here.
Los Angeles Neighborhood Data for Social Change
A data warehouse created by the University of Southern California that collects a bunch of health, demographic, built environment, and socioeconomic variables at the neighborhood level for the County of Los Angeles. Check the site out here.
CA Neighborhoods and Renter Vulnerability
This project focuses on identifying the broad vulnerabilities to COVID-19 and their disparities across neighborhoods in California.
Looking for data?
The National Neighborhood Data Archive is a publicly available data archive containing contextual measures for locations across the United States. NaNDA offers theoretically derived, spatially referenced, nationwide measures of the physical and social environment at local levels.
Google has a site for searching datasets akin to Google Scholar, Images, Books and so on. Check it out here
Kaggle is a crowd-sourced platform for all things data science. This includes competitions, discussion forums, online tutorials, and most importantly, at least for the purpose of this guide, a repository of big data sources. A lot of these data are not pertinent to this class, but some are; specifically, those with geographic information that allows you to connect data to geographic locations. Check out their datasets here.
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