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Case Study: Using Social Explorer to Boost Community Development

MONDAY, SEP 09, 2019

What I love about Social Explorer is that it seems to be one of the more user-friendly experiences that I've had. I love the feature that you can do kind of split screen map so easily because that’s something (which) would take some coding from developers on our end and I can't do that, but with Social Explorer I can and I think that’s really powerful.”

– Emily Perlmeter, Community Development Advisor at Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Austin, Texas Area

Introduction

Community development practitioners strengthen low- and moderate-income communities through sustained efforts in promoting neighborhood planning, housing development, economic growth, social welfare, and provision of civic amenities. 

At Social Explorer, we’re committed to helping these practitioners put community first with data-driven solutions. Learn how our datasets and mapping tools are helping people script a  brighter future for their communities.

Challenge

Emily Perlmeter is a community development advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Texas. She conducts research and identifies critical issues pertaining to low- and moderate-income communities across Dallas County, Texas.

In community development, understanding the unique demographic history and dynamics of each community is fundamental to long-term neighborhood planning processes. To that end, Emily needs to use census data, which helps her answer questions like:

  • What percentage of income do residents spend on rent in Dallas County?

  • What percentage of households in the area do not have access to the internet?

  • Has there been a significant appreciation in home value growth in the area?

  • What is the level of educational attainment in a particular neighborhood?

  • What are the most prevalent employment sectors in the area?

  • What is the level of unemployment in the community?

  • How does Dallas County compare to neighboring counties and the rest of the state?

  • What are the trends in growth over time?

Based on the data, Emily can identify high-need areas and direct foundation funding to strengthen local economies. For instance, being able to spot urban areas showing signs of gentrification could help Emily work with neighborhood groups and public officials to protect already scarce affordable housing resources.

Having this kind of data at her disposal allows her to make informed recommendations. However, acquiring access to such datasets comes with its own set of challenges. Most platforms, as Emily can attest to, fall short on ease of use. Moreover, compiling the data is only the first step. You need the right set of tools for visualizing it.

Solution

Emily values user-friendly tools that don’t require much time to learn. That’s why Social Explorer ranks highly for her. Even though she holds a GIS license, Social Explorer’s point and click, easy-to-use interface empowers her to accomplish a lot more within a very short period of time.

She also prefers to have greater control over visualizing her data. For example, using the split screen map feature, Emily was able to show the housing costs burden across Dallas County from 2010 and 2016 on a single screen. 
 

Housing expenditures that exceed 30 percent of household income have been historically regarded as a leading indicator of a housing affordability problem. Visit https://www.socialexplorer.com/27a3af73fd/view to explore further.


In Census Tract 159, a designated Opportunity Zone, the housing cost burden increased from 12.6 percent  of the household income to 33.6 percent in seven years. Other census tracts also reported significant increases. Having these data points helps Emily build her case in front of key community stakeholders.

Map of residents paying more than 30% or at least 50% of their income on rent in Dallas County, TX. Areas represented by the color orange shows where residents spend 30-49% of their household income on rent, while those in brown indicates that more than 50% of residents’ household incomes are spent on rent. Visit https://www.socialexplorer.com/d32813e7d0/view to explore further.


Emily values Social Explorer because it allows her greater control and choice over how to visualize her data and tell the most impactful stories. For example, she uses the annotation feature to highlight the state of Texas and remove other city names and borders, directing her audience’s attention to her area of interest.

Another feature that is particularly useful to her is multi-variable mapping with shading, dot density and mouse-over popups. These rich mapping options allow her to convey more detail and analysis.

Collaborating with community stakeholders is another key part of Emily’s job. Whether embedding an interactive map on her organization’s website, taking a screenshot and showing it to people, conducting webinars, or writing blogs, reports and features, Emily turns to Social Explorer’s data library and mapping tools. 

Households with No Internet Access in Dallas County
Visit https://www.socialexplorer.com/1b5ebcb0cd/view to explore further.


Benefits

Social Explorer offers multiple benefits to community development practitioners like Emily: 

  • Access to datasets, such as the Decennial Census and American Community Survey (ACS) for every year, in just a few clicks and all in one place.

  • Chart the latest trends and growth over time in your community and identify opportunities for growth.

  • Social Explorer’s powerful features offer the best value for all your data needs.

  • Download datasets in GIS, Excel, SAS, R, STATA or other packages and integrate it with your own research to tell the stories that matter most to your community.

  • Examine a wide variety of datasets pertaining to your neighborhoods of interest and compare data at a variety of geographic levels from city, county, and congressional district all the way down to school district, census tract, and block group.

  • Harness the power of our user-friendly and easily customizable mapping tools to create stunning data visualizations for your reports and presentations.

  • Easily share data tables, reports, and maps of the geographies of your choice with the click of a button.

  • Plan ahead for the future of your community with the addition of the new Opportunity zones and flood zones layers.


Author: Amrapali Saha

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