Since moving last year, I have become more aware and interested in comparing living costs between different areas of the country. What you can rent out with a certain amount of money can be drastically different between two states, and even neighboring cities. I decided to gain an understanding of which parts of the country are more expensive through the measuring of the wealthiest households.
Questions of Interest:
- What insights can information on wealthy households provide towards the general costs of living in an area?
- How can demographics (race, education, employment, etc.) lower or raise housing costs in an area?
Method and Process
Softwares used in this lab are Social Explorer, Google Sheets, and DataWrapper. Census data was mapped and visualized through Social Explorer, an application that provides access to demographic information about the United States.
Filtering the Data
(See map below) In Social Explorer, the ranges and cut points of the selected data, and colors were adjusted to better show the differences in the quantities. A green color theme was chosen due to its association with gains and wealth.
Organizing and Cleaning Data
After exporting the census data from Social Explorer, I opened the data list into a Google Sheet and filtered out any unnecessary data. Additionally, the columns were adjusted to be ordered by the number of households, instead of by state name. Therefore, the state with the least number of wealthiest households is displayed from the top.
The Google Sheet was linked to Datawrapper, where the data was further visualized into charts. I created two charts – one is a general summary of America’s wealthiest households categorized by state, and the second shows a further breakdown of these households by ethnic groups. For the first chart, a column chart style was chosen to clearly show the quantified data without having to scroll. Exact values are shown if the cursor hovers on a bar.
The second visualization categorizes the households by ethnic groups using a Stacked Bar chart style, so that you can continue seeing an overall picture of which states have the most wealthy households. For example, it is still clear to see that New York and California are the most expensive states because of the length of their respective bars. By hovering over the bars on the chart, you can further focus on a specific group of the population. Both charts can be viewed below in the following section.
Based on the first chart, which focuses on only the states, it is clear to see which states have the least amount of wealthiest households, and which include the most. New York, listed at the top, is commonly known for its steep living costs due to its booming economy and large job market across various industries. Due to NYC’s competitive environment, the median asking price for houses in the city has grown very high, and likely contributes to the large number of wealthy households in the census data from Social Explorer.
In the more detailed second chart (see below), you can gain an understanding of the different ethnicities that represent the high-income population.
Overall, I have a good understanding of what I was trying to learn with the data I pulled. It is clear to me which states are more expensive to live in compared to others. However, one issue I had was figuring out exactly how the number of households were determined. In Social Explorer, I could not find what the income threshold was that defined a household as “wealthy”. Lastly, I was not able to obtain more recent data (2021 and later), so I had to settle with 2020 data.
Upon gaining an understanding of these data visualization applications, I would also like to see if I can work with more complex sets of data in the future, and more colorful visualizations.