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Find disabled veterans using US Census data

Veterans are a key voting demographic that your candidate wants to reach. To learn the location of disabled veterans in southern Howard County, you'll download US Census data and TIGER files from the US government's American FactFinder portal. You'll join the data from both files into one to display it as a single layer in your web map from the previous lesson.

Search American FactFinder

American FactFinder is an official United States Census Bureau website that provides access to data about the United States and its citizens. Using a guided search, you'll locate the neighborhoods of disabled American veterans in southern Howard County and display them on the map.

  1. Go to the American FactFinder home page by copying the following URL and pasting it into a browser:
  2. Click Guided Search and click Get Me Started.

    Get Me Started

    The Guided Search page opens to the first step in the selection process. American FactFinder has data for people, housing, and businesses and can be searched generally or by specific dataset names and numbers.

  3. If necessary, choose I'm looking for information about people. Click Next.

    The second step lets you pick the topics that you're interested in.

  4. On the Topics page, expand Veterans and click Service Connected Disability.

    Service Connected Disability

    Service Connected Disability is the first criterion added to Your Selections.

    Your Selections

    The Your Selections box displays the search criteria that you choose. It tracks how many tables are available that match your criteria. The more criteria you select, the more specific your search becomes.

  5. Click Next.

    The next step is to select geographies, which narrows down your search results by location. You can either specify a geographic area or find the area you want by its geographic type. The more specific your geographic area of interest, the fewer records you'll need. You're looking for data for Howard County, Maryland, divided by census tracts, so you'll use the latter method.

  6. For Select a geographic type, choose Census Tract - 140.

    Select a geographic type

    After you choose the geographic type, a new menu appears. This menu allows you to choose a state.

  7. For Select a state, choose Maryland.
  8. For Select a county, choose Howard.

    Now that you've narrowed the geographic area, the selection box updates with a list of specific census tracts.

  9. Click All Census Tracts within Howard County, Maryland.

    Howard County census tracts

  10. Click Add To Your Selections.

    The Your Selections box now contains ten tables that match your search criteria.

  11. Click Next.

    The next step is to choose race or ethnic groups. No data is available for the divisions that you've chosen.

  12. Click Next.

    Search results

    The search returns several results that match your criteria. The tables are sorted by relevancy and age. The most recent results are at the top.

    For the purposes of this lesson, you'll use results from 2014, although more recent results might be available.

  13. For Show results from, choose 2014.
  14. Click the top search result, Service-Connected Disability-Rating Status and Rating for Civilian Veterans 18 Years and Over (with the ID B21100).

    Service-connected disability-rating status

    The Table View opens. A table displays the data you've chosen as part of your search.

    There are 55 census tracts in Howard County, so there are 110 columns with data displayed for veterans (one column for disabled veterans and one for veterans). Before you download the table, you'll filter it to further reduce the amount of data.

  15. On the Table View tab, click Modify Table.

    Modify Table

    Blue filter buttons appear. These buttons allow you to filter, collapse, expand, and rearrange rows and columns. First, you'll halve the data by filtering out the Margin of Error.

  16. In the upper-left corner of the table, click the filter button.

    Filter button

    The Filter Dimension window opens. You can filter out either the Estimate or Margin of Error column.

  17. Check the box next to HD01 (Estimate).

    HD01 Estimate

  18. Click OK.

    All Margin of Error columns are removed from the table. The table now contains 55 columns, each one showing the estimated number of disabled veterans in a census tract. Next, you'll focus on the rows. Disabled veterans, depending on the severity of their injuries, are assigned a disability rating from 0 to 100 percent. You're concerned with the location of disabled veterans rather than their rating, so you'll collapse these rows.

  19. Next to the Has a service-connected disability rating row, click the blue button to collapse all rows with percentages.

    Collapse rows

    The table now has three rows of data. The first is the total number of veterans per census tract, the second is veterans with no disability, and the third is veterans with a disability. Now you'll transpose the table so that the current rows become columns and the current columns become rows. In ArcGIS Online, rows generally refer to geographic features (such as census tracts), so changing the table to use a similar format will help you map the data.

  20. Under Table Tools, click Transpose Rows/Columns.

    Transpose Rows/Columns

    The rows now contain census tract information, and the columns now contain disability information.

  21. Click Download.

    Download button

    The Download window opens. This window allows you to determine the file format of the downloaded table. You'll download the table as a comma separated values (CSV) file. This type of file can be used in ArcGIS.

  22. Select Use the data (e.g., in a spreadsheet or database). Confirm that both Merge the annotations and data into a single file and Include descriptive data element names boxes are checked.

    Download format

  23. Click OK.

    A progress bar opens to tell when the data is ready.

  24. Under the progress bar, click Download.

    The file downloads as a zipped file named ACS_14_5YR_B21100. You'll unzip the file later in the lesson, after you download spatial files to which you'll attach the data.

Download TIGER files

Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) files give geographic context to data. Your CSV file is only a table until you merge it with geospatial data. Through your data search, you've already specified a geographic area. You'll find the corresponding TIGER file by using the Create a Map action for the search you created.

  1. In the American FactFinder window, click Hide Table Tools.

    Hide Table Tools

  2. For Actions, click Create a Map.

    Create a Map

    The data values in the table turn blue. Before the map can be made, you must choose a data value in the table.

  3. In the data table, click the first value for Has a service-connected disability rating.

    Has a service-connected disability rating column

    The Select a Data Value to Map window opens.

  4. Click Show Map.

    The Map View tab opens and zooms to Howard County and displays a legend..

    Howard County, Maryland

    This map has the geographic information needed to display the data from the CSV file. Next, you'll download the map.

  5. On the Map View tab, click Download.

    Download button

    The Download window opens. This window contains options for the data you'll download. You'll download the data with the shapefile format. Shapefiles are a collection of related files that contain the location, shape, and attributes of geographic features. (The file you'll download has eight associated files.)

  6. In the Download window, under Spatial Data formats, click Shapefiles (.zip).

    Shapefiles format

  7. Click OK.

    If your browser has a pop-up blocker, you may need to disable it to download the data. If you get an error, clear your browser's cache and try to download again.

    The shapefile is downloaded as a zipped file called thematic_map_shape.

    Downloaded data

  8. Create a folder on your computer and name it Howard County Disabled Veterans.
  9. Move the zipped shapefile to your new folder. (Don't unzip it.)
  10. Unzip the ACS_14_5YR_B21100 file to the Howard County Disabled Veterans folder.

    Folder contents

  11. Close the American FactFinder window.

Join census data

Next, you'll edit the CSV file you downloaded and join it with the TIGER files using a field common to both tables. First, you'll open the CSV file to review its contents and clarify a few field names.

  1. From your Howard County Disabled Veterans folder, open ACS_14_5YR_B21100_with_ann in a text editor, such as Notepad or Microsoft Excel.

    When you add this file to your map, the first row determines the field names for the corresponding columns of data. This data has two rows of headings and most headings are cryptic or lengthy. You'll delete the extra row and edit a few headings to provide more meaningful field names.

  2. Expand the text editor window so all the headings and data are visible.

    If you're using Microsoft Excel, you can press Ctrl+A to select the entire worksheet. Then, on the Home tab, in the Cells group, click Format and choose AutoFit Column Width.

  3. Delete the entire first row.
  4. Change the following headings as described in the table below. (If you're editing in Notepad, be careful not to delete the commas between each heading.)

    Old headingNew heading

    Estimate; Total:


    Estimate; Total:-Has no service-connected disability


    Estimate: Total: - Has a service-connected disability rating:


    Edited CSV file

    Now you have only one heading row.

  5. Save the file. If you're using Microsoft Excel, click Yes when prompted to keep the workbook in CSV format.
  6. Minimize the window.

    Next, you'll add the census data to your web map.

  7. If necessary, open your Howard County, Maryland, Census Tracts map.
  8. Turn off the following layers:
    • Howard County Donation Total
    • Howard County Voter Data
    • 2018 USA Tapestry Segmentation
  9. On the ribbon, click Add and click Add Layer from File.
  10. In the Add Layer from File window, click Choose File (or your browser's equivalent). Browse to your Howard County Disabled Veterans folder, and double-click
  11. Click Import Layer.

    The shapefile is added to the map and the Change Style pane opens. This layer will only be in the map temporarily, so you can skip styling it.

  12. Click Cancel.

    Shapefile added to the map

    The shapefile contains multiple polygon features that represent the census tracts in Howard County. (The shapefile's symbology in your map may vary from the example.) Next, you'll identify an attribute field that is common both to the shapefile and the CSV file that you downloaded. By identifying a common attribute field, you can join the two datasets to create a single map layer.

  13. In the Contents pane, point to the thematic_map_shape layer and click the Show Table button.

    Show Table

    The table opens below the map.

  14. Restore the window with the ACS_14_5YR_B21100_with_ann CSV file. Arrange the windows so you can compare the field names and values of the CSV file and the table.

    Common fields

    In the CSV file, the Id field (the first column) shares identical values to those in the GEO_ID field in the thematic_map_shape table. (You can click the GEO_ID field heading and choose Sort Ascending to confirm.) You'll use these common fields to join the two datasets.

  15. Close the CSV file. (If you're prompted to save changes, click Don't Save.)
  16. Close the table.

    To combine the data, you need to add the CSV file to the map.

  17. Add ACS_14_5YR_B21100_with_ann.csv from your Howard County Disabled Veterans folder (click Add > Add Layer from File or drag the file into the map).

    In the first lesson, you added a CSV file of street addresses, for which features were located on the map. In this case, the file doesn't contain location information, so a table will be added instead.

  18. In the Add CSV Layer window, for Locate features by, select None, add as table. Click Add Layer.

    Add CSV Layer window

    The table is added to the Contents pane.

    Standalone table in the Contents pane


    Optionally, you can rename the table, but it won't be visible in your final presentation.

  19. In the Contents pane, point to the thematic_map_shape layer, and click the Perform Analysis button.

    Perform Analysis button

  20. In the Perform Analysis pane, click Summarize Data and click Join Features.

    Join Features

    The Join Features tool opens. With this tool, you can append attributes from one layer's features to the table of another layer based on spatial and attribute relationships. The Choose target layer parameter defaults to thematic_map_shape.

  21. For Choose layer to join to target layer, choose ACS_14_5YR_B21100_with_ann, if necessary.

    In the next parameter, you choose which type of join. In this case, the spatial option is not available because the other layer is a table. Its features don't have a geometry, which is required for a spatial join.

  22. For Select the type of join, click Choose the fields to match.
  23. For Target field, choose GEO_ID.

    As determined earlier, this field's values match field values in the CSV file.

  24. For Join field, choose Id (the matching field in the CSV file).

    Join Features tool parameters

    You'll accept the default join operation Join one to one, which joins the first matching feature in the join layer to the first matching feature in the target layer.

  25. For Result layer name, type Howard_County_Disabled_Veterans, and append your name or initials (the name must be unique within your organization).

    Result layer name

  26. Click Run Analysis.

    The result layer is added to the map.

  27. In the Contents pane, point to the Howard County Disabled Veterans layer, click the More Options button, and choose Rename. Remove your name or initials and click OK.

    The new layer looks like the thematic_map_shape layer, but its table also includes the contents of the CSV file.

  28. Open the table for the Howard County Disabled Veterans layer.
  29. Scroll to the right of the table to see the added fields.

    New fields

    Now you can display this data on the map to assist your candidate in targeting this key group of voters.

  30. Close the table.

    You no longer need the thematic_map_shape layer because your new layer contains the data that you need.

  31. In the Contents pane, point to the thematic_map_shape layer, click the More Options button, and choose Remove.

Symbolize and interpret veteran data

Styling the new layer will allow you to visualize the number of veterans in each census tract.

  1. In the Contents pane, point to the Howard County Disabled Veterans layer and click the Change Style button.

    Change Style

  2. In the Change Style pane, for Choose an attribute to show, choose Service_Disability.
  3. Under Service_Disability, click Add attribute and choose Total_Change_Estimate.

    Choose an attribute to show

  4. Click Done.
  5. If necessary, pan and zoom your map so each circle is approximately centered on its respective census tract.

    Census tracts

    The map redraws to show the total number of veterans per tract (circle colors) and the number of disabled veterans per tract (circle sizes).

  6. Click the Howard County Disabled Veterans layer name to show its legend.

    Howard County Disabled Veterans legend

    Symbolizing veterans, as well as disabled veterans, gives your candidate context where both populations live. According to the map, the census tracts with large and dark circles are the neighborhoods in which your candidate could maximize outreach efforts to veterans as well as disabled veterans.

  7. Click the largest blue circle on the map (slightly southwest of Columbia) to see its pop-up.
  8. If necessary, click the white arrow forward until you see a census tract number.
  9. In the pop-up, scroll down until you see the data for Total_Change_Estimate, No Disability, and Service Disability.

    Howard County Disabled Veterans pop-up

    The pop-up contains the number of veterans, as well as how many have a disability and how many do not. However, the pop-up contains a lot of other information that is not particularly relevant to your candidate's goals.

  10. Click the Howard County Disabled Veterans layer name again to hide its legend.
  11. Close the pop-up and save the map.

Configure pop-ups

Pop-ups provide descriptive information about features in a layer. They are based on attributes within the data and appear when you click a feature on the map. You can specify what information is displayed in pop-ups and how that information is presented. You'll configure the information displayed in the pop-ups for your map in order to communicate the information about veterans as clearly as possible.

  1. In the Contents pane, point to the Howard County Disabled Veterans layer, click the More Options button, and choose Configure Pop-up.
  2. In the Configure Pop-up pane, for Pop-up Title, clear the text and type Howard County Veterans.

    Pop-up Title

  3. In the Pop-up Contents section, click Configure Attributes.

    Configure Attributes

    The Configure Attributes window opens. This window lists the layer's attributes. Every attribute has two names: the field name, which is the layer's internal name for the attribute, and the field alias, which is the name displayed in the layer's table and pop-up. When you configure the attributes, you can choose the information that will appear in the pop-ups.

  4. In the Configure Attributes window, check the Display box to check all the fields, and then uncheck it to uncheck all the fields.

    Display box

    Now that all the fields are turned off, it's easier to turn on the few fields that you want to appear in the pop-up.

  5. In the Display column, check the boxes for the fields with the following Field Alias values:
    • TRACT
    • Total_Change_Estimate
    • No_Disability
    • Service_Disability

    You'll also change the field aliases to something more meaningful.

  6. In the Field Alias column, click TRACT to edit the text. Type Census Tract and press Enter.

    Census Tract field alias

  7. Change the Field Alias value for Total_Change_Estimate to Total Change Estimate.
  8. In the same manner, eliminate the underscores in the field aliases for No_Disability and Service_Disability.

    Field aliases

  9. Click OK.
  10. In the Configure Pop-up pane, click OK.
  11. Click any circle on the map to open its pop-up.

    Configured pop-up

    The pop-up that you configured now shows only the data that your candidate wants to know. (You'll also show this refined pop-up in the presentation that you'll create later.)

  12. Close the pop-up and save the map.

Because you now know where the disabled veterans are concentrated, you're positioned to maximize your candidate's outreach efforts to veterans and disabled veterans. Specifically, you'll suggest that your candidate hold a news conference in the Columbia area to propose more resources and efficient services for disabled veterans. You'll also encourage disabled veterans to join your candidate on stage. In the next lesson, you'll create a presentation of your results to communicate your map to the candidate.