New Features in NHGIS Help Visualize Available Data

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NHGIS recently launched a pair of web maps highlighting the available GIS files and striking changes in boundaries over time for two popular geographic levels. The ‘Census Tract’ map displays data for years 1910 to 2014, and the ‘Place’ map depicts data for 1980 to 2014. With each year listed as a separate layer, users can easily toggle specific years on and off to visualize the data.

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Measuring the ANZACs: Crowdsourcing a war effort

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Historical demographic data has been a big part of the Minnesota Population Center’s history. The MPC can trace its own lineage to the Social History Research Laboratory in the University of Minnesota’s History Department. Current MPC Director Steven Ruggles, and one of the MPC’s founding faculty members, Rus Menard, led a project to create a 1% sample of the United States’ 1880 census. Starting in 1988 the data was entered by professional data entry personnel reading microfilm. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the 1880 census was the first complete-count census that the historical census team at MPC worked on. The complete-count 1880 census was entered by Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints volunteers, introducing us to the challenges of working with data sources created by enthusiastic people around the world.

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Counting—and Redefining—the Cost of War

Hacker_headshot 2016 copyAssociate Professor of History and MPC Faculty Member J. David Hacker made headlines in 2011 when he published a groundbreaking study of the total number of U.S. Civil War dead. Hacker argued that the widely-accepted figure of 620,000 was far too low. Using IPUMS, Hacker showed that the number of dead was at least 750,000—if not more. His article, “A Census-Based Count of the Civil War,” published in Civil War History, was introduced by the editors in the issue as “among the most consequential pieces ever to appear in this journal’s pages.”

Few demographic historians expect attention from mainstream press when they publish their research, but Hacker’s study attracted national interest, including interviews with the New York Times and National Public Radio.

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