Screenshot from new interactive map, Census Explorer.

Screenshot from new interactive map, Census Explorer.

Credit: U.S. Census Bureau


The U.S. Census Bureau released an interactive map today showing demographic data that has the potential to inform design projects. The map, dubbed "Census Explorer," currently shows eight data points that are viewable at the state, county, or Census tract level and can be illustrated with a choropleth (data shown with colors) or bubble (data indicated by circle size) map. It includes Census data from 1990 and 2000 as well as the 2012 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year results.

Built with the bureau's API, maps like this are opening up easy access to data. (The bureau had previously released an interactive map on the 2010 Census.) For the design and construction industry, access to this data means determining housing needs quickly and painlessly.

For example, the latest ACS data shows that the median household income in San Francisco (both a city and a county) is slightly less than $74,000 per year—but only 37 percent of occupied housing units are owner-occupied. Drill down to the tract level, and the map shows considerable variation in owner-occupied housing between neighborhoods. (The median income data at the tract level for San Francisco is less useful, since everything over $75,000 is colored the same: A tract with households earning $140,000 per year looks the same as one with households earning $85,000.)

A similar analysis could be applied to the 65 and older data. Tracts with higher concentrations of older adults may have a stronger demand for age-in-place housing.

Toggling the map across data points reveals information that is worth considering when deciding what type of housing (low-income, condos, rental apartments) to build and where.