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Social Explorer

Getting Started with Social Explorer

Accessing Social Explorer

UCSC provides full access to Social Explorer through the campus network. Sign up for an individual account while connected to the campus network. If you don't see the banner and green flag in the top right indicating that the Professional Edition is provided by UC Santa Cruz, make sure you are logged into the UCSC network. Once you have an account, log in and start building!

Logging in and setting up your account

What is Social Explorer

Use Social Explorer to visually explore demographic information, from census and economic data to election and religion data, and more. Users can visually explore change over time and understand the patterns behind the raw numbers.

With Social Explorer, you can:  

  • Create and customize thematic and interactive maps 
  • Navigate current and historical demographic data and survey
  • Create data reports based on historical and modern US census data at all geographic levels 

Building a Map

The fastest way to get started with Social Explorer is to use the Maps console.  

  1. Click on Maps at the top of the screen
  2. Select Start Now.  You'll see a default map of the United States
  3. Use the search box to search for a place by name ex: Santa Cruz County.  
  4. Pull down Show Data By and change it to your geography (county, place, census tract, etc.). Place refers to both cities and unincorporated areas.
  5. Select the Change Data button
  6. Browse by Category or Survey
    1. Browse by Category (tutorial): Use the slider bar to select a Census year and category.  Not all categories are available for each census year as some questions are added or dropped from survey to survey
    2. Browse by Survey (tutorial): Shows a list of all available data variables by Census year  
  7. Enhance a presentation or "story" by adding multimedia elements.  Click "Tell a Story" in lower right corner.  See the Creating a Project Tab for more information.


Census Geography

  • The U.S. Census uses it's own geography, which ignores local boundaries like neighborhoods
  • It does use official government boundaries like cities, counties and states.
  • Social Explorer shows boundaries for most Census Tracts back to 1940.
  • City and Census Tract boundaries usually change with every decennial census.  Expect to see larger tracts for older census years
  • Social Explorer does not include every possible census geography


More About the Census

  • The U.S. Census is conducted every 10 years (decennial) and is mandated by the U.S. Constitution for the purposes of congressional apportionment.
  • Census data is based on a survey questionnaire so the questions asked (and therefore the available data) can change from census to census as questions are added and removed over time.  
  • To see what a specific Census asked, take a look at this Census Bureau publication which covers 1790-2000, and the Census 2010 questionnaire.
  • The Census Bureau now conducts the American Community Survey, an annual statistical sampling of households.  Data are reported in 1, 3 and 5 year increments.  
    • 1 year: Areas with population over 65,000 (most current data; smallest sample size)
    • 3 year: Areas with population over 20,000 (more reliable than 1 year; larger sample size than 1 year) [report is being phased out by the Census Bureau]
    • 5 year: Covers all geographies, including very small areas (most reliable data, largest sample size)