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Social Explorer ACS Analyses Add Context, Meaning to New York Times Projects

MONDAY, MAY 24, 2021

Social Explorer is helping to make news – literally.

Working with the New York Times, Social Explorer’s cutting-edge mapping tools and demographic expertise have provided deep context and meaning for stories over the last year that have included Black Lives Matter protests; changing voting patterns in the hotly contested 2020 presidential election; and relationships between predominantly white law enforcement agencies and people of color.

Social Explorer was created in 1999 by Andrew Beveridge and Ahmed Lacevic, when demographic analysis was largely an afterthought at most news organizations. The introduction of the multiyear American Community Survey (ACS) in 2008, however, encouraged many newsrooms to begin using the data to bolster their journalism.

“The American Community Survey has helped drive major journalistic advances in using data and demographics to provide precision and context,” said Beveridge, speaking at the May 18-21 ACS User Group Conference. “We’ve been privileged to have a long association with the New York Times, and we feel this year was a high-water mark for using demographics to enhance its journalism.”

Beveridge cited three major stories where the New York Times used Social Explorer’s unique expertise:

·         A June 13 photo essay detailed more than 2,000 locations of protests that erupted after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. Social Explorer helped identify key elements that demonstrated the depth of support for the Black Lives Matter, with protests occurring in places where the median household income was as low as $20,000 and as high as $220,000.

·         A Sept. 23 investigation into the demographics of police departments found that while the U.S. population was becoming more diverse, its law enforcement agencies weren’t keeping pace. More than two-thirds of police department became whiter than their communities between 2007 and 2016, according to data analyzed by Social Explorer.

·         A Dec. 20 analysis of voting patterns from the 2020 presidential election found that while President Joe Biden won a record number of votes, many areas with large populations of Hispanics and Asian-Americans voted for defeated President Donald Trump.

One of the unifying threads of the three stories was the usefulness of the American Community Survey, which has periodically been threatened with losing its funding. The ACS, however, remains widely supported by the business community, and Social Explorer’s work with the New York Times make a strong case for increased support from the nation’s newsrooms.

“None of these analyses could have been done without the American Community Survey,” Beveridge said at the conference. “They’re only a small subset of the work we’ve done – and hope to continue to do – for the nation’s leading newspaper.


Author: Frank Bass

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