An important part of your final paper will involve listing and interpreting some basic demographic, social and economic data for your city in question. You will need to use a database to find this data and create a table, which will be an important part of your final paper. If you are analyzing an American city or neighborhood, this data comes from American Factfinder. If you are writing about a foreign city, then you will have to get more creative in how you find data.
A large body of research in sociology uses either the MSA (metropolitan statistical area) or the census tractto perform research. Census tracts try to approximate neighborhoods, with varying degrees of success. When you retrieve information about your MSA or tract, you may find that it is a little larger or smaller than what you consider your area of interest to be (the average population of a tract is between 4-5,000 people, for example).
The information you need to find comes from American Factfinder, the US Census Bureau’s search engine.You can access Factfinder at:
1. On the main page, find “Address Search” on the lower-right side of the screen. Click it.
2. Type in an address in the box that appears. Click “go.”
3. Identify the geographical area you want. If you want to analyze the neighborhood of this address, select “census tract,” which should be the fourth or 5th option from the top. If your area of interest is an MSA, select “Metro/Micro Statistical Area,” which should be the 8th option. One you’ve clicked on your unit of analysis, confirm that it is now listed under “Your selections” at the top left of the screen, and then close the window. You will now be confronted with a range of tables with demographic information for your chosen area. This next step is crucial:
4. Directly beneath the “your selections” window, click on the following selections: “Topics – Dataset – 2013 ACS 5-year estimates.” This will limit your search to an average of the last 5 American community surveys (a long-form census). Please be aware that these numbers are selected from sample (1% of the American population, and then weighted according the previous census values), meaning there are estimates. Good estimates, but estimates nonetheless. Be sure to note this in your paper! Close this pop-up window once you confirm it has been added to “your selections.”
5. Access the following tables:
a. S0601: Selected Characteristics of the Total & Native Populations
b. S1101: Households & Families
c. S2301: Marital Status
6. Repeat the above steps but choose “State” as your geographical unit of analysis.
7. Submit the table you make (seeing mine for an example) to me for approval, along with a one page description of the important demographic trends facing your city or neighborhood and how this matters for your paper.
Record selected statistics that you believe are relevant for your paper topic. I have provided in example for the neighborhood I grew up in: South Yonkers, New York. You may use my table as an example to guide your work.
If you are studying neighborhood transition, then you can also find data for the same city or neighborhood over time – for example, it might be interesting to show population and demographic changes from 1980-2010 using the census long form. All of this can easily be done! Just be sure you are finding demographic data that relates to your paper topic.
Table 1. Comparison of Census Tract 4.01 in Yonkers, NY to the State of New York
Characteristic Tract 4.01 New York
Total Population 3,689 19,487,053
Median Age 31.0 38.1
% 65 years and over 5.3% 13.8%
% Under age 18 24.7% 16.1%
% Male 53.6% 48.5%
% Female 46.4% 51.5%
% White 42.5% 65.6%
% Black 35.1% 15.6%
% Hispanic 44.3% 17.9%
% Asian 2.1% 7.6%
Education (<25 yrs old)
% Less than high school 24.2% 14.8%
% High school graduate 23.7% 27.1%
% Bachelor’s Degree or greater 35.1% 33.2%
Income & Poverty
Median income $28,413 $58,003
% In Poverty 27.9% 15.3%
Total Households 1,479 7,234,743
Average Family Size 3.24 3.27
% Family households w/ children
< 18 years old 31.8% 31.7%
% Owner-occupied units 5.5% 54.2%
% Renter-occupied units 94.5 45.8%