What's the U.S. county with the most people over 60 years of age? What percentage of people in L.A. have college degrees? What percentage of military veterans in Chicago served in Vietnam? What's the average wage for a construction worker?
These are some of the many, many questions you can answer at Data USA, a new and unprecedented effort to make sense of government data. Developed by MIT's Media Lab and consulting firm Deloitte, it visualizes a bewildering amount of information in a way that's more approachable than usual.
For example, if you go to the home page and type in "Chicago," you will see it has a population of 2.7 million and a median age of 34. Drilling down, you can see median salaries are $66,468 for men and $49,687 for women, that secretaries of native Hawaiian descent earn more than average, and that executives make up 9% of the workforce. And so on. You can also see the biggest industries in the city, the most common undergraduate degrees, and the most common second-languages.
Cesar Hidalgo, an assistant professor with the Media Lab, says the site could be useful for all kinds of groups. For example, you might be thinking about college and wondering what career paths pay best. Or, you might be thinking of setting up a factory somewhere and wondering if you have the right type of workers in the area. The site can help on both scores.
"There's a dialogue around these topics that's clumsy if you don't have the data readily accessible," says Matt Gentile, head of Deloitte's analytics group.
As well as searching by location, you can also look up data by industry, occupation and education, create maps, and download graphics. And there's also a "stories" section where data has been turned into narratives (useful, for example, if they're looking at why Donald Trump is doing better or worse in an election district).
By the way, the county with the highest percentage of plus-60s is Sumter County, in Florida. More than half the population is at least 64.5 years of age. Now we know.