Calling All Data Enthusiasts!

Sep. 12, 2019

Taylor Lampe, Allegra Wilson, & Peggy Hsieh

We’re a team of data nerds here at the Dashboard. Every time we dig into the data for the Dashboard's 37 metrics, we find something interesting to explore! There’s no shortage of wonky things that we run across working with 11 national data sets plus education data sets from all 50 states.

So, if you’re like us and love to geek out on all things data (or you’re just interested in learning more), here are our top 10 fun facts about the Dashboard’s data, spanning from the expected to the downright quirky.

  1. There is a designated census tract in Honolulu, HI that contains no people, just coral reefs. Time to grab your gear and go snorkeling!

  2. The 3 cities with the lowest binge drinking estimates are all in Utah. This makes sense. Utah has passed a number of policies limiting alcohol availability across the state. Research has shown that areas with a lower density of retail outlets selling alcohol may lead to lower alcohol consumption.

  3. California and Hawaii are two of the only states to disaggregate their high school graduation data by Filipino ethnicity in addition to Asian and other Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander subgroups. Check out our technical documents to read about how we categorize race/ethnicity at the Dashboard.

  4. States record opioid overdose deaths using different ICD-10 codes, which are used to classify all illnesses and medical procedures a patient might have. They might use ‘T’ codes, which are for substance-related multiple causes, or ‘F’ codes, which are for mental health-related issues. Some opioid overdose deaths are coded as “unspecified”, which can lead to underestimation of opioid overdose deaths. 

  5. Baltimore, MD is one of our coterminous cities, meaning that the city and county boundaries are aligned. However, the names can get a little confusing! There is Baltimore City, Baltimore City County and Baltimore County. Baltimore City and Baltimore City County are coterminous. Baltimore City is not coterminous with Baltimore County though, meaning that Baltimore City and Baltimore County do not share the same boundaries, as shown in the image below

  6. New York City is the only one of our 500 cities which contains multiple coterminous counties. Those counties are equivalent to the five NYC boroughs: New York (Manhattan), Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, Bronx, and Richmond (Staten Island). Our Dashboard team lives in New York, Kings, and Hudson County!

  7. Depending on the year of American Community Survey data (pre-2013 or post-2013), Macon, GA may be categorized either as a city or as a county (Bibb County). Check out our technical documents to read about how we address this issue at the Dashboard.

  8. Of our 500 cities, the most common city name is tied between Bloomington (IL, IN, MA) and Springfield (IL, MA, MO). Given this, when analyzing data, we make sure to always match cities according to FIPS codes, which are standardized numeric codes that uniquely identify geographic locations. We do not match by name to avoid matching to one of the duplicates! We’ve learned that the hard way…

  9. As per the CDC’s 500 Cities Project, we include the 497 most populous cities in the nation and largest cities in Vermont (Burlington), West Virginia (Charleston), and Wyoming (Cheyenne). This ensures that at least one city from every state is represented!

  10. The U.S. Census designates certain localities, particularly in New England and the Middle Atlantic regions, as townships, not cities. These townships are not included on the Dashboard because they are not technically designated as cities. The image below shows the relationship between geographic units in the Census’s hierarchy. As you can see, the breakdown of places can be quite complex!

Have any questions about these facts and how they could impact your analysis? Send us an email at [email protected]. Do you have any of your own wonky data facts? Reach out to us on social media to tell us about them and your work!

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