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10+ tools to explore publicly available data

April 27, 2017

Here at SSTI, we receive requests from time-to-time from members looking to better understand their regional economy through data. Though the federal government has long been the largest provider of publicly available data, the mechanisms to explore it have been unwieldy. Now more than ever, users have options for interactive resources to explore government data and help inform decision making around economic development. This Digest article highlights many of the free tools and databases that are available.

Innovation Index 2.0: StatsAmerica, a project of the Indiana Business Research Center funded with support from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, operates this index for economic development practitioners to use in strategic planning, site requests, developing metrics, and grant writing. The recently updated index includes more than 50 new measures.

USA Facts: This newly launched interactive site, a project of former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer, seeks to paint a data-driven portrait of the American population, as well as the government’s finances and impacts on society.  The information is provided as a non-partisan, free public service, with continued maintenance and expansion expected.

Peer City Identification Tool: The Community Development and Policy Studies division (CDPS) of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago developed this tool to help policymakers and practitioners understand a municipality in the context of peer cities. The tool uses a cluster analysis to identify peer cities along economic, demographic, social, and housing dimensions.

Panel Database on Incentives and Taxes: Research conducted by Timothy Bartik of the Upjohn Institute examines business incentives for economic development offered by state and local governments in the United States. This interactive database contains data on incentives and taxes for 33 states (representing more than 90 percent of U.S. output) across 45 industries over the past 26 years.

Data USA: A project of Deloitte, Datawheel, and Cesar Hidalgo, professor at the MIT Media Lab and director of MacroConnections, Data USA helps users understand and visualize important issues facing the U.S. such as jobs, skills and education across industry and geography.

National Equity Atlas: PolicyLink and the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) at the University of Southern California operate this data portal, which provides a comprehensive resource to track and measure inclusive growth. The Atlas highlights demographic change, racial inclusion, and the economic benefits of equity for the 100 largest cities, 150 largest regions, all 50 states, and the United States.

U.S. Cluster Mapping Project: Led by Harvard Business School's Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness in partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Economic Development Administration, The U.S. Cluster Mapping Project provides over 50 million open data records on industry clusters and regional business environments in the United States to help promote economic growth and national competitiveness.

Federal Efforts Supporting Entrepreneurship: Research by Andrew Reamer, a professor at the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy, highlights programs, interagency working groups, advisory committees, executive orders, presidential memoranda, statistics, and congressional caucuses related to entrepreneurial support.

Our World in Data: A project of the University of Oxford, this site provides a global look at development through data visualizations and the presentation of academic research. The site explores development dimensions such as demographics, poverty, and economic growth from an international perspective, with some data stretching back hundreds of years. 

Two federally managed sites also provide an interactive look at government data:

USAspending.gov: Since 2007, the federal government has been required by law to maintain a frequently updated, searchable website that provides access on entities and organizations that receive federal funds. In May 2017 the U.S. Department of Treasury will launch the next generation of the site to include new features and expanded data, as required by the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014. 

Data.gov: The U.S. General Services Administration manages and hosts this site that includes nearly 166,000 datasets on topics, such as: agriculture, climate, consumer, ecosystems, education, energy, finance, health, local government, manufacturing, maritime, ocean, public safety, and scientific research.

If you or your organization uses another tool to explore publicly available data, let us know at contactus@ssti.org and we will add it to this list!