Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Resources for Data on American Demographic Trends

Statistics can be a powerful source of information when making a legal argument. As a law student or practitioner, you're probably aware of many of the legal resources available, but what about cold, hard data? Today's post is going to introduce you to two free, reliable, and easy-to-use resources: the Pew Research Center and American FactFinder.

The Pew Research Center is a highly regarded, nonpartisan think take whose primary objective is to take the nation's pulse on popular topics. It primarily concerns itself with information related to social issues, public opinion, and demographic trends. The Center generates its data through public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis, and other empirical social science research. To get a sense of what it offers, take a look at some recent polls: support for the death penaltydemographic trends among political partiesguilt among working fathers; and, the current pope's popularity among Americans.

Pew's website allows you to browse or search for data. It's intuitive and simple enough to navigate--good for serious research, as well as for the leisurely exploration of trending topics.

American FactFinder is a website dedicated to distributing information collected by the United States Census Bureau. This is an incredibly useful tool for the savvy social science researcher, though it's not the easiest to use, mostly because it contains a tremendous amount of data covering a range of categories. There are, in fact, four different ways to access census data: through Community Facts, which lets you find popular information quickly about a particular area; Guided Search, which gives you step-by-step instructions when you're not sure where to start; Advanced Search, which lets you explore more complex layers of data; and, the Download Center, where you can download large amounts of data.

Fortunately, there are guides available to help you with your searches.

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