Mining Diversity Data

Census data are a treasure trove when it comes to uncovering stories about the diversity within your own community. The site makes it easy to find out a great deal about the communities you may cover as a journalist. So, let's get started by logging on to the America Fact Finder portion of the census site.

ATS4 Diversity screenshot

Use the search box we've highlighted and enter the information for your community.

Take a look at the data available and then begin thinking about story ideas.

Look for those areas in which the local details vary greatly from the national average. For example, in Oxford, Mississippi, the number of people with bachelor's degrees is significantly higher than in other communities. At the same time, there are more families living below the poverty line than in the rest of the country. Could this mean there's a good story to be told about the "haves and have nots" in Oxford? It's worth exploring.

Look at characteristics such as "foreign born" or "speak a language other than English at home." Do the numbers surprise you? What programs do schools and other public entities have in place to handle the diversity within your community? Police departments, for example, sometimes struggle to deal with issues such as officers who may not speak a victim's language.

Look at the percentage of people aged 65 and older in your community. Talk to an expert on aging about what services are available for the elderly and what may be lacking. The need for eldercare is growing rapidly, but it can be hard to find in many locations.

No matter where you end up working as a journalist, spending a little time with census data will help you understand your community a bit better.