How to research cities, sorting by country of origin
July 11, 2018 12:13 AM   Subscribe

It is well known that most large cities have a Chinatown, and that Chicago has a large polish population. Is there a way for dialing in this kind of search across us cities?

For example which cities in the Mid-Atlantic have the largest amount of people of Czech descent? Which towns in the Mid-Atlantic have the largest amount of people of recent African migration? Etc.

If this turns out to be closed census data, is it just easier to state which specific things I'm looking for and hear from anecdata?
posted by tedious to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Census collects data on country of birth. You can access some of the anonymized raw data on the Census website or through the IPUMS tool. But I think this map might be what you are looking for. You can switch country of origin at the bottom. Not sure if there is any comprehensive data on ancestry, rather than country of origin.
posted by molla at 12:57 AM on July 11, 2018

Would NationMaster help? (enormous statistics site, although they don't seem to break down by US states).

If you have data sources, a tool like Keshif can be used to visualise data intersections.
posted by snarfois at 3:25 AM on July 11, 2018

Census has (self-reported, unverified) ancestry in addition to country of birth. Not sure if the url I built would transfer to another machine, so

(1) Go to
(2) Advanced search --> show me all
(3) Topics on the left, then People-->Origins-->Ancestry, then close the popup
(4) Near the top of the resulting table, you should see B04006 / People Reporting Ancestry, click on that
(5) This will show you results for the entire US, you can look at specific areas with the "ADD GEOGRAPHIES" button; I'd suggest looking at metropolitan statistical areas or MSAs which are basically core cities + surrounding suburbs
(6) You'd want to download the resulting table to an excel file for easier futzing. It will be arranged with MSAs as columns across the top, but you can transpose it in excel. You'll have to do your own calculations if you want to know which metro area has the highest proportion of Ancestry instead of the largest raw number.

There are multiple ancestry tables available and they seem to have different lists of ancestries, so you might want to flibble around with other tables if B04006 doesn't have the one you're interested in.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:31 AM on July 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

It sounds like searching the census is the way to go, but wikipedia also has some of this info under the "demographics" section in individual cities. You can also view articles on specific national/ethnic groupa in the US and find out where they live.
posted by bearette at 5:37 AM on July 11, 2018

GCU Sweet and Full of Grace has the fullest and most correct solution -- two potential pitfalls you may not be aware of:

One is geographical -- are you looking at cities proper or metropolitan areas. Cities are the arbitrary legal areas, where metropolitan areas are groups of counties that function as a unit. So Washington DC is a city - just the District itself, while the metro area includes Silver Spring, Alexandria, and a bunch of other areas. A number of emerging ethnic communities are actually in specific suburbs rather than the central city, so I'd recommend the metropolitan area.

The second is the difference between ancestry and immigrant population -- to look at your Chicago example, this random pdf shows that as of 2000, there were over 800,000 Poles in the Chicago area. However, the Migration Policy Center (this map link from molla) there were about 130,000 Polish immigrants in Chicago. This is because most people in Chicago of Polish descent are people of Polish ancestry -- that is, they think of their family as coming from Poland. Relatively few of them are of Polish origin -- that is, they themselves were born in Poland. The Migration Policy Center shows the latter.

This obviously makes a big difference and varies between different origins; there are huge numbers of people with Scots ancestry, very few of whom were born in Scotland; on the other hand, migration from Central America is relatively recent and many more Guatemalans or Salvadorans are both people of that ancestry and immigrants from that country.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:05 AM on July 11, 2018

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