We use cookies to understand how the website is being used and to ensure you get the best possible experience.
By continuing to use this site, you consent to this policy. About cookies

Case Study: Historical Research with Social Explorer

MONDAY, SEP 23, 2019

“Social Explorer has been incredibly helpful for me. It makes census data a lot easier and it's all in one place. I started using Social Explorer as an undergraduate and it's something I plan on using regardless of what my graduate thesis topic will be.”

– Aron Ramirez, Ph.D. Student, Department of History, Yale University


Aron Ramirez started using Social Explorer as an undergraduate history student at Stanford University. From writing his honors thesis on the history of his hometown, Downey, California, to reworking it into a seven-part series for the local newspaper, Social Explorer’s rich data library and user-friendly mapping tools were instrumental in his research. 

As Aron begins his Ph.D. in History at Yale University this fall, one thing he’s sure of is that Social Explorer will continue to be an integral part of his research methodology. Analyzing historical and current census data available on Social Explorer helps Aron transform his insights into new streams of knowledge.


Between 1985 and 1995, Downey transformed from being a white middle-class suburb into the Mexican American middle-class suburb of Aron Ramirez’s childhood. However, what remained unchanged was the aspirational quality attached to living in Downey, with The L.A. Times calling it “Mexican Beverly Hills” in 2015.

As a student of modern American history, Aron was interested in delving deeper into the complexities of Downey’s demographic transformation. Writing an evidence-based narrative would require demographic data, both historical and current. But finding a user-friendly and comprehensive data source turned out to be the real challenge for Aron. Until Social Explorer came to his rescue.


When Aron began working on his honors thesis, his librarian at Stanford directed him toward Social Explorer and he has never looked back. To fully grasp the changes over time in Downey’s demographic profile required Aron to examine a wide variety of datasets ranging from population density, racial composition, household income, educational attainment, and employment metrics to housing, property values, and home ownership data. With Social Explorer, access to such datasets was quick, easy, and all-inclusive. 

The demographic tool for all your data needs

Aron considers census data a prerequisite for his research projects and Social Explorer his go-to demographic tool for all his data needs. Social Explorer provides Aron with easy access to datasets such as the Decennial Census and American Community Survey (ACS). Every census since the first one conducted in 1790 is available in just a few clicks and all in one place.

Transform data into knowledge

Though Social Explorer can serve as a quick reference tool, its true strength lies in helping Aron find answers to detailed and complex questions. With Social Explorer, he can examine a wide variety of datasets pertaining to the neighborhoods of his interest and compare data points at various levels of geography.

Downey has become the symbol of Latino upward mobility, with median household incomes ranging above $100,000 in some census tracts. However, as in other parts of the country, there are stark geographic divisions when it comes to the spatial distribution of economic prosperity. As Aron’s research on Social Explorer shows, while the median income in one north Downey neighborhood was $103,500 in 2010, in a south Downey neighborhood it was $40,427, much lower than even the countywide figure. Click here to explore further.

Make your case visually

Aron strongly believes that the practice of public history holds greater value when research findings are shared with the community in question. When the editor of The Downey Patriot wanted to publish Aron’s research, he turned to our user-friendly and customizable mapping tools to communicate his findings visually. 

The first map visualizes the demographic makeup of Downey in 1960, with green signaling majority white neighborhoods. The second one shows how the demographic makeup had already changed by 1980 with the large spread of blue indicating the growing presence of a Hispanic/Latino population. Click here to explore further.

Aron values the ability to communicate change over time with Social Explorer’s Side by side and Swipe mapping features. These multi-map presentations enable Aron to compare two different variables, or the same variable across a period of time. You can also embed our fully interactive maps in your research projects or share them on social media.

Author: Amrapali Saha

Data insights are waiting to be uncovered
Get Started

Already using Social Explorer? Log in.