From Numbers to Narrative with the KIDS COUNT Data Center

September 27, 2012

The KIDS COUNT Data Center is the most comprehensive source of data on child and youth well-being in the nation. It’s nothing short of awesome, in the truest sense of the word. But just what will you find in there? And how can you use it?

Inspired by our KIDS COUNT Infographic Challenge, a crowdsourced contest for the best visual story using these data, SparkAction spent some time poking around the Data Center and using the tools and widgets. It helps to approach this data goldmine with a sense of what you’re looking for.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

Most popular: If you’re curious about how others—journalists, researchers, policymakers—use the Data Center, you can find out what they’re doing without having to peek over their shoulders. Check out the “most popular” indicators box on the homepage. 

Notable trends: Each year, the KIDS COUNT Data Book captures trends in child well-being and asks leaders and policy makers to put these issues on the agenda. Use some of these notable trends, culled from the KIDS COUNT Twitter feed, as inspiration for your infographic:

“Bundling” for better storytelling: This is the first year that the annual Data Book shows state rankings on four broad topics—economic well-being, education, family well-being, and health. That means that rather than just comparing individual indicators across cities, states or regions—or from one year to the next—you can see how states rank on these four topics to tell a more comprehensive story about the data.

  • Economic well-being – Includes data on children in poverty; children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment; children in households that spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing; and teens ages 16 to 19 not attending school and not working.
  • EducationIncludes data on children ages 3 to 4 not enrolled in preschool; 4th grade reading achievement levels; 8th grade math achievement levels; and high school students not graduating on time.
  • Family and communityIncludes children in single-parent families; children by household head’s educational attainment; children living in areas of concentrated poverty; and total teen births.
  • HealthIncludes low-birthweight babies; children without health insurance; child and teen death rate; and teens ages 12 to 17 who abused alcohol or drugs in the past year.

So what does this mean to you? Why not take one of these and render it in an infographic about your state versus another? Or how your state is doing in these four areas, and overall?

Spin the interactive KIDS COUNT Data Wheel and find this information in a glance:

Think local: KIDS COUNT staff say people often overlook the city-level data, although some very interesting stories emerge from this information. For example, you might start by investigating how many children are living in poverty in your city. Find that data point and compare it to other nearby cities, or state averages. The differences can be shocking. In Detriot, Michigan, 57 percent of children live in poverty.  Now there’s a powerful—and disconcerting—story.

  • City-level data. To find data for a city, you can start by choosing a topic (or indicator) or go directly to the state. To explore by topic, visit Data Across States and select an indicator—for example, child poverty. Select “Show City Data” under Geographic Areas and you’ll find all the child poverty information available for U.S. cities. You can also slice poverty data by a child's age or race.

  • County-level data. Say you want to dig even deeper and find data for your county or even school district. You can get hyper-local by starting with a state in Data by State and then selecting “View Community-Level Profiles.” You’ll find all the city, county, school district, and Congressional data available for that state.

Stories to take to Congress: whether it’s access to health care, children living in poverty, or education success, if you want to ask your Members of Congress to take action on an issue you care about, you’ll find the data you need searchable by Congressional District. It’s easy.

Start with your state in Data by State, then select “Community-Level Profiles.” You’ll find all the Congressional district data available for that state. Don’t know your Congressional district off-hand? No problem. The Data Center offers a quick look-up tool:


Now, ready, set, create! For more information, visit our blog on how to Create a Winning Infographic in Three Steps. Good luck in the Challenge! 

Then, take the KIDS COUNT Infographic Challenge!