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Tool 1

Know Your Demographics

Who should your project serve?

Demographic data will help you determine who lives near your project and which communities have the greatest socioeconomic needs—and who might benefit most from equitable development.

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Download a PDF with demographic review instructions and tips.

Tool 1: Know Your Demographics


Before you can set equity-based goals, you must build an informed understanding of your surrounding communities. This will help ensure your work repairs rather than exacerbates existing forms of inequity, particularly in communities impacted by structural racism. While much of your knowledge about the needs of surrounding communities will come from conversations with local community organizations, you should also build a holistic, data-informed understanding of local demographics, income, poverty, housing needs, and more using city-based Geographic Information Systems and free data visualization tools. This tool will help you begin this process.

Online resources

  • Census Reporter

    User-friendly site to access US Census and American Community Survey data (free)

  • 2020 Census Demographic Data Map Viewer

    Map application with data from the 2020 US Census (free)

  • Justice Map

    Map application that visualizes race and income anywhere in the United States, down to block-level data (free)

  • PolicyMap

    Create custom, multilayer maps using dozens of data points, from demographics such as age and race to health, housing, environmental, and economic indicators. (free basic Public Edition)

  • SimplyAnalytics

    Mapping, analytics, and data visualization application for creating interactive maps (subscription)

  • Social Explorer

    Quick and easy access to historical (1790–2000) census data, with capability to create maps and reports (subscription)

Compiled by Harvard Graduate School of Design

Follow-Up Questions

Once you have a well-rounded demographic picture of your area, ask:

  • Who will the project impact the most?

  • Who are we already working with? Who are we leaving out?

  • What disparities (for example, in health outcomes, household income, access to transportation, housing affordability) exist around our project?

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