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CHICLA 330: Gentrification In Latinx Comm. (Spring 2022) : Getting maps of Census data from Social Explorer

Information about and links to library resources helpful for CHICLA 330: Gentrification in Latinx Communities. Emphasis on retrieving Census data.

Citing Social Explorer

Examples of citing in Chicago, MLA, and APA styles at  How do I cite Information on Social Explorer? (in the FAQ section of Social Explorer Help)

Help from Social Explorer

One place to look if you have questions is the Help section provided by Social Explorer.

Government information librarian

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Beth Harper
Memorial Library
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Government Information Specialist

Social Explorer: general information

Link: Social Explorer (you may need to log in with your netID and password)

Remember! Only three simultaneous users from UW-Madison are allowed in the database at any one time.

Description of database 

  • Provides access to demographic and housing data from the American Community Survey, and the Decennial Census back to 1790
  • Allows users to create maps and reports at all geographic levels, including the state, county, census tract, block group, zip code and census place
  • Default interface creates/retrieves maps
  • One does NOT need to create an account or use Social Explorer's "Login" button to use Social Explorer.

Retrieving a map, changing its variable and geography

Retrieving a map visualizing one variable is one of the basic operations in Social Explorer. Once you've done this, you can export or share maps, retrieve tables, and create and retrieve other data products.

Written instructions

  1. "Explore maps" is the default mode in Social Explorer. Make sure “Explore maps” is highlighted in the upper left corner.
  2. Click “Explore” in the center column, under “United States.”
  3. The default variable that’s displayed is population density, from the ACS 2019 5-year estimates.
    To change the data (ie, variable),
    1. Click "Change data" in the upper left box.
    2. Select a "category" (ie, broad topic) from the list that appears.
    3. Click the variable you want to display. Make sure you know which survey the variable is coming from.
    4. To minimize the box listing the variables, click the “X” in the upper right corner of the box.
  4. The default geographical unit that is displayed is state.
    To change the geography,
    1. Click "state" next to "by" in the upper left box.
    2. Select a "geography" from the list that appears.
    3. To minimize the box listing the geographies, click in a white space at the top of the box.
    4. Use the controls in the bottom right corner of the screen to zoom in or out on the map
  5. As you mouse over a geographic unit on the map, a box will appear with
    • The exact name or number of that geographic unit
    • The exact numbers/percentages for that variable in that geographic unit



More map "how-to's"

Most links in this box go to Social Explorer's Help files.  These include written instructions with images, and sometimes videos.  These are very helpful if you get stuck. Social Explorer's help files are available on the open web; you do NOT need to sign into the database to access the help files.


Social Explorer's Using Maps help section, with many sub-sections.


Export/download a map: Export a map as an image

The default format is “archive” (or “ZIP Archive.”) You may want “image” (or “PNG image”) instead.

  • Archive: ZIP file, separate images for map, scalebar, and legend
  • Image: PNG file, single map image with overlaid title, scalebar, and legend


Compare maps (display two maps at once): Use Side by side and Swipe maps

More about Swipe maps: Visually comparing data with Swipe maps
Social Explorer allows you to compare variables by showing them side by side, so that you can swipe between them. You can compare two different variables, or compare the same variable across different time periods, even if the data are not in the same geography.


Change the legend (in the bottom right corner of each map): Using the interactive legend


Get more information about a variable (from the map)