Visualizing Census Data/Census-Related Data

DISCLAIMER: Much of the data sourced is from the 2017 American Community Survey. At the time I conducted this mini-project, I wasn’t aware that the census data I was using was based on 1-year and 5-year estimates with associated margins of error, calculated using custom U.S. Census Bureau projections. I acknowledge that I should have been much more cautious in presenting this data and extrapolating any policy-influencing conclusions from the visualizations.

These visualizations were created as an independently-led project I did during the 2019 Data Discovery Summer Program. That summer, the research cohort focused on developing ways to raise awareness about the importance of the decennial U.S. Census. I decided to create visualizations using the most recent census and census-related data at the time that showed users how they could look up different statistics related to SNAP - the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - and health insurance coverage as a way to gauge how the counties or states they lived in compared to the rest of the U.S.

Statistics on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)

The Center of Budget and Policy Priorities has interactive factsheets on who benefits from SNAP in each state. Click here to view up to date information on your state!

In California, SNAP is known as CalFresh, a state-supervised and county-operated program. Before it was named SNAP, the program was colloquially known as “food stamps.” Folks who qualify for CalFresh receive an EBT, or an Electronic Benefits Transfer card that works similarly to a debit card, that they can use in EBT-card-accepting grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and co-ops to buy groceries each month. Students at UC Berkeley can assess their eligibility to receive SNAP and get help with applying for benefits at Cal’s CalFresh website. Students who aren’t married and have no dependents are usually eligible to get up to $194 per month in CalFresh benefits (as of the fiscal year 2020).

With just under 40 million people relying on SNAP in 2019, the Trump administration’s attempts to cut SNAP’s federal budget (i.e. setting stricter work requirements tied to SNAP eligibility) would cut hundreds of thousands of residents from food assistance and disproportionally harm those living in certain counties in certain states (i.e. Glasscock and Loving Counties, TX) or states/territories like Puerto Rico, where over 80% of households living below 2017 federal poverty level in some municipios/municipalities and over 50% of households in some municipios/municipalities with one or more disabled*** members relied on SNAP.

This project was done before the COVID-19 pandemic. As of August 2020, the administration has temporarily stopped the implementation of SNAP work-related eligibility restrictions and has issued waivers to all states. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture approved the suspension of these restrictions up until September as part of the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020,” stating that “states that have already received Food and Nutrition Service approval for Emergency Allottment (EA) issuance in March and April, or April and May” by having confirmed COVID-19 cases and being impacted economically by pandemic-related mandates “are approved to continue issuing EA benefits each month.”

** *I usually use identity-first rather than person-first language when discussing disability. Click here to read one article that explains this standpoint.

Statistics on health insurance coverage (2017)

Health insurance coverage by sex & age group

Percent insured and uninsured below 100% federal poverty level

Statistics on public health insurance coverage

The majority of individuals in the U.S. who are insured have private insurance. Public health insurance coverage includes programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Medicaid, a program originally designed to cover womxn and children, covers services including (but not limited to) hospital care, nursing home care, physician care, lab & x-ray services, immunizations & preventive medicine for kids, and family planning services for groups such as low-income (below federal poverty level) families, low-income elderly or disabled residents who receive Supplemental Security Income, and pregnant folks. Medicare provides health insurance coverage for senior Social Security-eligible citizens 65+ years of age or folks who are disabled, have end stage renal disease, or ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Note on the coloring schemes: In the “Medicaid vs. Medicare coverage, by county (sorted by percent (%) public coverage of total population)” visualization, the bottom coloring scheme is based off of U.S. Census Bureau-designated regions.

Data from the decennial census and other surveys like the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey can also highlight income inequality, a phenomenon that drives wealth inequality and, on a national scale, perpetuates the widening gaps in coverage related to health insurance or food assistance.

Click here to see the data source (go to “Appendix Table B2”). The Economic Policy Insitute also created an interactive factsheet where users can search up their state’s income inequality levels.