Geography mini project

Mini Project A: Thematic Mapping


This mini project focuses on using the Census American Factfinder web site to generate a thematic map. The procedure involves following most of the steps in the final “Try This” of Chapter 3 (Try This: Acquiring U.S. Census Data via the World Wide Web), then adding a couple of additional steps to create your map. Specific instructions are below (these steps may not work with the Safari browser, Chrome and Firefox should work):


  1. Go to the U.S. Census Bureau site at


  1. At the Census Bureau home page, hover your mouse cursor over the Data tab, hover over Data Tools and Apps, and then select American FactFinder. American FactFinder is the Census Bureau’s primary medium for distributing census data to the public.


  1. Click the ADVANCED SEARCH button in the top navigation panel (you may need to click “show me all”).


  1. Click the Topics search option box at left. In the Select Topics overlay window expand the People list. Next expand the Income & Earnings list. Then choose either Income/Earnings (Households) or Income/Earnings (Individuals). Note that the entry you pick is placed in the Your Selections box in the upper left, and it disappears from the Income & Earnings list. Close the Select Topics window.


  1. The list of datasets in the resulting Search Results window is for the entire United States. We want to narrow the search to county-level data for your assigned state. Click the Geographies search options box in the left panel. In the Select Geographies window that opens, in the List tab, in the drop-down menu Select a geographic type, choose County – 050. In the next drop-down menu, Select a state, choose the state to which you are assigned based on the key below. Then, from the list Select one or more geographic areas, choose All Counties within (State Name), the first item in the list. Then click the button ADD TO YOUR SELECTIONS. This will place your All Counties… choice in the Your Selections box. Close the Select Geographies window.


  1. The list of datasets in the Search Results window now pertains to the counties in your state. Take a few moments to review the datasets that are listed. Note that, depending upon the topic list selected there can be ACS (American Community Survey), SF1, SF2, and other datasets. Here, we are going to focus our effort on the 2013 ACS 5-year estimates.


  1. Start typing “2013 ACS 5-year estimates” into the “topic or table name” search box. The search box will auto-suggest the full title from a drop-down list. Choose “2013 ACS 5-year estimates” and then click GO. In the results that show up below, check the box for the entry with ID: DP03, Table title: Selected Economic Characteristics, and Dataset title: 2013 ACS 5-year estimates. (You will need to scroll down, probably multiple pages, to find this). Then, click View at the top or bottom of the page. In the Table View that opens you will see a large table with many entries for each of the counties from your chosen state. Note the row of Actions: (blue links), which includes Print, Download, and Create a Map buttons (plus other options).


  1. Click Create a Map (it is important to do this before picking data variables).


  1. Next, think about a data variable to map. Choose either: (a) a percent for some topic that interests you or (b) a derived quantity from the “Estimate” column (many of the entries in this column are simple totals, so be careful to pick one that is a mean or a median). Tricky part: This part of the interface is not intuitive; you are told to “Click on a data value in the table to map”. To select the topic you want, go to its row, and then click on the value for the first county listed. A window will pop up; click Show Map to generate your map. Although you selected the value for just a single county, it will map all counties. Depending on your browser, you will probably need to scroll up to see the map (you are likely to see a blank view until you do so).


  1. In the left sidebar, you can select colors and data classes and make some additional changes. Feel free to make adjustments, and then click “Download” in the Action list above the map.


  1. A download window will pop up. Choose “PDF” and in the Map Title box enter the classing method you used. You do not need to add the rest of the title. Click OK. When your file is produced, click “Download” to save to your computer.


  1. You are almost finished, but there is still a bit of analysis to do! Open your saved PDF file (the document you just produced using the census website) and look at your state map. You will see that the data are arranged across your assigned state in a particular pattern. Why are the income data arranged this way? What parts of your state have the highest values, and what have the lowest values? Keep your answers relatively short, but explain why the patterns look as they do. (Example writeup: “In Massachusetts, the coastal areas in the east have the counties with the highest income, which is explained by the presence of the Boston metropolitan area. The rural areas in western Massachusetts have lower incomes.”) Assignment key for the State you are to use is  West Virginia

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