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How to: Use Geographies

Changing the geography(s) can change your whole perspective on the data you are trying to understand.

Jennifer Funk avatar
Written by Jennifer Funk
Updated over a week ago

mySidewalk contains a library of over 1.9B data values but those values are not always what you need! Each data value applies to a specific time and place so we need to make sure you understand the 3 components that make up data (time, place, purpose).

Time is relatively easy to grasp, you pick a time (date or range) that applies to when the data was observed. This is very important because it might have been published months or years later but we always publish under the observed date (or range).

Place is a lot more fluid and needs more care in how it's selected. That's why we developed our map based geography selection so you can visually see what you are selecting before you get the value that is associated with it.

Selecting a place when looking for data

mySidewalk drives you towards data, which is what you see in the middle section (Guides, Library, etc) but over on the right, there is an option to change the geography.

  1. Click Geography tab (on the right selection panel)

  2. Click Add Geography

  3. Select from Recent, Nearby, Custom

    1. OR

  4. Select from the map by clicking the checkbox at the top

  5. View your selections on the right (and reorder them)

  6. Finish selecting when you have what you need

Picking a geography allows you to compare areas, combine areas and generally understand a specific piece of your community.


We have another concept of geography that we call "sub-geography" these are the smaller parts that make up the big pieces. When you have a single geography selected, you can choose a sub-geography to see the break-down of the parts that make up the bigger piece. This is often used to drill down into specific parts of your area of interest so you can really pinpoint need.

Note: the bigger geography is not often an exact sum of the smaller pieces. Due to differences in the shapes, the smaller geographies do not perfectly nest inside the bigger ones. We give you a fantastic estimate based on weighted block group apportionment so you get the best numbers possible.

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