The people of the Census Bureau are probably some of the unsung heroes of the United States government. In a representative republic such as ours, a census is absolutely vital to determining who gets represented, etc. My home state of Washington will get another representative in Congress, since we have grown since the last census in 2000. The census also collects other information, and that information can be an absolute gold mine. Specific census data — with names attached, that is — is opened up to historians, genealogists, researchers, and the curious after seventy years. Generalized data, i.e. averages without names, is revealed more quickly. The New York Times and Google Maps have now taken recent census estimates and put together a remarkable website, Mapping America, which shows averages on race, income, rents and mortgages, and education for “every city, every block” in the country.

(Ostensibly every block. The city of Mercer Island, near Seattle, simply doesn’t appear to have any information, as if the Census or the Times simply don’t think it exists. There are also considerable areas labeled “Low Population Area” or “Small Sample Size” that don’t turn anything up. But still, it’s darn close.)

By going to the site you are confronted with the racial breakdown of New York City. Zooming in you can get a better look, and can mouse over any census tract to bring up information. Zooming out you can get a national view, with county-by-county breakdowns available. Going up to the button “View More Maps,” you can switch from the racial distribution to other maps based on race; going over to the sidebar on the “More Maps” screen you can bring up map sets based on income, households, and education as well.

Let’s look at what the site teaches us. Continue reading