Who Lives in Your City? Explore New Local Demographic Maps

Oct. 30, 2020

City Health Dashboard

Who Lives in Your City? Explore New Local Demographic Maps

As we often see depicted in maps on the City Health Dashboard, health outcomes can vary considerably across neighborhoods, reflecting because some neighborhoods or areas have been cut off from opportunities and investments that fuel good health, reflecting the reality that some areas have been cut off from resources or opportunities more than others. Part of this is driven by demographic distribution – how groups of people spread or cluster throughout a community. Understanding the racial/ethnic makeup of a city or neighborhood can help policymakers better understand how structural drivers, including historical disinvestment and present-day structures, policies and institutions that drive racial inequities, may impact health outcomes and work to reverse the harms caused by these systemic issues.

Demographic information is often only available in broad categories, limiting our ability to understand the distribution of many population groups. For example, the Asian population is growing across the United States, driven in large part by an increase in first generation immigrants – those who are foreign-born. These communities often face language barriers, making it hard to receive essential information related to their health. This is indicative of a larger trend, as COVID-19 has illuminated systemic racial/ethnic divides in our health care system and beyond, raising important questions about who gains access to quality health care, who doesn’t, and the impact of these disparities on health.

Data has an important role to play here. A new feature on the Dashboard now allows you to access maps and tables describing who lives in your city and the neighborhoods where they live. This will help city leaders, advocates, and residents better understand the local population and equip them with more tools to improve public health.

Introducing Demographic Maps and Tables

Users can now access demographic maps and tables on the Dashboard. The maps, located on the new Demographics by Census Tract tab, and the tables, on the new Demographics Overview tab, provide neighborhood-level age and racial/ethnic breakdowns – including data on racial/ethnic population subgroups that are often not available – for each city.

These maps are a natural extension of the Dashboard’s mission to provide information that cities and local stakeholders can use to improve health and equity. For example, a community-based organization in Richmond, CA looking to provide physical activity programming for older adults can more easily identify which neighborhoods would benefit most from these interventions, or an advocacy organization focused on improving health outcomes for Dominican residents in Passaic, NJ can use these maps to zero-in on which neighborhoods to include in a grant application.

Designing programs, delivering care and services, or conducting outreach with the target community in mind is critical. The new information and context provided by these demographic tables and maps can help city policymakers, health practitioners, and organizers understand the racial/ethnic makeup of their constituents at a more granular level and, ultimately, equip them with the tools they need to better serve these diverse communities.

Deep-Dive on the Data Details

There were numerous important technical details to consider and data choices to make. Some of these specific issues, and how we dealt with them, are described below.

Presentation of Asian American Subgroups

To simplify navigation of Asian American subgroups specifically, we organized them into three intermediate groups based on United Nations (UN) geographic regions and based on input from experts at the NYU Center for the Study of Asian American Health (CSAAH)*. The three intermediate groups are East Asian, South Asian, and Southeast Asian. For example: the Japanese subgroup is classified as East Asian, while the Thai subgroup is classified as Southeast Asian.

While we also provide subgroup data for Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander and Hispanic groups, these subgroups are not organized into intermediate groups and selected subgroups are based on expert input and data availability.

* While the UN categorizes the following racial/ethnic groups as Asian, data for these groups are not available from the Census: Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, Iran, and Maldives.

Percent Foreign-Born

The Dashboard team consulted with researchers and community health experts that work specifically with some of these subgroups during the development of these maps. We learned that percent foreign-born (the proportion of a certain racial/ethnic group born outside the U.S) was essential to our understanding Hispanic and Asian American populations. This is for many reasons, including that there are differences in characteristics, like English speaking ability or cultural adaptation, among others between those born in the U.S. versus those born in other countries. Since the majority of foreign-born people in the U.S. are from Latin America or Asia, providing foreign-born data adds important information to racial/ethnic demographics. However, this distinction is less useful for American Indian/Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander groups (AIAN/NHOPI). As such, percent foreign-born was not included for AIAN or NHOPI tables and maps.

Navigating Census Data

For you Census data experts, we used Asian alone or in combination variables for Asian subgroup counts and percentages, and used the Asian alone variable for percent foreign-born. For example, if a given individual identifies as two race/ethnic groups (e.g. non-Hispanic White and Chinese) they will be counted in both groups for the purposes of subgroup counts and percentages, but will not be counted at all for percent foreign-born. We made this choice based on guidance from experts at CSAAH.

Data are Lacking for Important Groups

Some important demographic data are unavailable from the Census. Unfortunately data are not available for Middle Eastern and African racial/ethnic subgroups, so we could not put them in the maps and tables.

Access the new Demographic map and table from your City Overview page and explore the racial/ethnic and age breakdowns across neighborhoods in your city. For example, see the maps for Richmond, CA or select “Change City” to see them for your city. And as always, please reach out with any questions: [email protected].

Acknowledging Our Contributors

These additions to the Dashboard were developed in part with funding from a pilot grant provided by the NYU Center for the Study of Asian American Health (CSAAH). This project would not have been possible without guidance from numerous outside experts. Thank you to our partners at CSAAH: Dr. Stella Yi (Assistant Professor, NYU School of Medicine), Dr. Simona Kwon (Associate Professor, NYU School of Medicine), Jennifer Wong (Senior Program Coordinator, NYU School of Medicine).

Special thanks also to the following experts who lent their guidance to this project: Dr. Celia Stall-Meadows (Tribal Research Department, Choctaw Nation), Dr. Carmela Alcántara (Associate Professor, Columbia University School of Social Work), and Dr. Sheri Daniels (Executive Director, Papa Ola Lokahi).

Explore More