Government websites offer a wealth of government-collected data. As the web has matured, the government has offered this data in a growing number of interactive formats. Users can generate custom reports online, map data, and download full or partial data sets for use with their own software. This is wonderful, but sometimes donít you just want to click and print? Or, if particularly ambitious, click and copy and paste?
Various federal government agencies make canned "state profiles", tables of data for a specific state, available on their sites. These tables are quick and easy; you just need to know where to find them. The government statistics portal FedStats.gov is the logical place to start. FedStats has a section called MapStats, which is something like a portal for state profiles. Click on your state on the big MapStats clickable map, and you will get a table of data for that state with a column of the parallel national statistics for comparison.
The MapStats point-and-click menu
Portion of the MapStats profile for Iowa
The MapStats statistics come from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Agricultural Statistics Service, National Center for Health Statistics, and Census Bureau. Each state profile has three sections: People (population and housing statistics), Business (person income, business ownership, and more), and Geography (land area and population density). Each line of data has a "?" icon leading to more information about the source and nature of the data, helpful for checking if the MapStats number is the most current available. MapStats offers similar tables for counties, cities, and state and federal judicial districts. For congressional districts, MapStats links to the Census site Fast Facts for Congress. Should your needs go beyond click-and-print, you can download the MapStats database.
- The Bureau of Economics (BEA) focuses on personal income data. Their BEARFACTS (BEA Regional Facts) profiles are available for states, counties, metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), and BEA Economic Areas. BEARFACTS state fact sheets are one-page narratives, available in HTML or print-ready PDF. Those looking for more data or more interactivity will find it on BEAís Regional Economic Accounts page. As an example, check out the Regional Economic Measurement Division Interactive Map. Creating a U.S. map for something like state annual data on personal disposable income is a breeze, and BEA makes it easy for you to print the map or the map with the data table.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has state economic and employment profiles called Economy At A Glance Tables. The tables are straightforward, with easy links to prior years' data and to more detailed statistics.
- The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has a Quick Stats feature for state and county data. It is easy to use, but not a true generator of click-and-print profiles. For that, the Agriculture Department has the Economic Research Service (ERS) State Fact Sheets. These tables, four to five printed pages long, are divided into sections for: Population, Income, Education, and Employment; Farm Characteristics; Farm Financial Indicators; and Top Commodities, Exports, and Counties. Each section is annotated with links to sources for more data and, where appropriate, a contact number for an ERS staff expert. Data come from ERS as well as BEA, BLS, Census, and NASS. Data from each fact sheet can be saved as a Microsoft Excel file, and the entire data set can be saved as a Microsoft Access file.
- The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) has a web offering called Fast Stats, which features statistics for individual states. Click on a state and see, in a new window, statistics for birth, fertility rate, deaths, and death rate.
- Finally, the Census Bureau is full of quick state profile data.
- State and County QuickFacts tables are closely related to the MapStats tables mentioned earlier, with the same People, Business, and Geography sections and the same comparison of state with national figures. Data selected for the tables from these two sources is not identical, however; choose the one the best suits your purpose.
- American FactFinder, the core Census data finding tool, supplies a richer set of options. As with other sites described in this column, American FactFinder has a clickable U.S. map from which to select your state. The fact sheets provide demographics from the decennial census and the American Community Surveyís annual estimates. For each state, FactFinder has a standard profile with social, economic, and housing data or a profile for a specific race, ethnic, or ancestry group within a state. Links to a narrative of the profile, with bar charts, and to a reference map, are provided at the top of the standard profile. In addition, many of the measured characteristics have a ìrankî link on the profile, leading to a chart ranking all fifty states and the District of Columbia on that characteristic. Each state also has an economic profile, with the option of seeing the profile for a specific industry within a state.
- The Census Bureauís annual and venerable Statistical Abstract of the United States does not have click-and-print state profiles. But it does have what many seekers of state data want: rankings. The online State Rankings page covers 41 statistics, from resident population to mobile homes as a percent of total housing units. The lists are in HTML and Excel formats.
A few other notable state profiles from federal government websites are:
- State Education Data Profiles from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The profiles provide three to four indicators each for elementary and secondary education characteristics and finance, postsecondary education, public libraries, assessments, and demographics. Choose one or several states to profile and compare with the national figures. Click on the bar chart symbol to generate a bar chart suitable for copying or pasting into a slide presentation.
NCES bar chart comparing Pupil/Teacher Ratio
- State Energy Profiles from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Each state profile leads off with a colorful map indicating major power plants, electricity transmission lines, and other energy-related assets. The profiles feature a narrative overview and data sections on the economy, energy prices, reserves and supply, distribution and marketing, energy consumption, and environment (alternative fuel data and electric power industry emissions).
Portion of the State Energy Profile for Washington State
Each of the sources cited above provide excellent documentation and most have links to further, detailed data and more sophisticated data applications. Profiles do not tell the entire story, but every so often you may just want to click and print.