Ereview: State Stats CQ Press, June 15, 2012

State Stats CQ Press

Content State Stats is a sleek, dynamic statistics database. Covering a wide range of topics, it seeks to be users’ first stop for statistics about the United States. Data come from the past ten to 15 years, with a few pieces of data from the early 1990s. This is a result of the source material: data are pulled from a series of CQ Press print works published between 1995 and 2011, including State Rankings, Health Care State Rankings, Crime State Rankings, and Education State Rankings. These publications compiled, edited, and ranked various statistics for the United States. Recent data are currently being added to the database as they are received, typically quarterly.

Topics include most of the subjects you would expect to find in a statistics database: population and demographic information and state-by-state education statistics, including expenditures per capita, medical information such as percent obesity, and employment and labor data per state. National summary statistics for each topic are also included.

The database provides some general economic data, but it is not a business database. A Geography category includes some very basic information on weather and land use, but other data sources are more detailed. Crime and Law Enforcement data are fairly thorough, containing data from local, state, and federal governments. Additional topics include Agriculture, Crime and Law Enforcement, Defense, Social Welfare, Taxes and Government Finance, and Transportation.

The most powerful aspect of the database is the ability to create custom comparisons of data. Users can easily compare numbers from multiple years and states, as well as compare multiple data sets in the same table or graph. For example, with just a few clicks, I can create a scatter plot comparing average annual pay with public high school graduation rates or unemployment. Of course, I can also have fun creating meaningless charts (e.g., average annual pay versus state square mileage), but all of this is within users’ control. Sets can be compared across topics, allowing users to manipulate the data to meet their own needs easily.

Usability The State Stats database looks good and works reasonably well, with only a few minor issues, some related to the source material.

The lack of statistics predating 1990 is sometimes quite noticeable and inconvenient. Users looking for population data will need to consult multiple sources if they need material from before 1990.

The information in the original print publications came from a variety of government and private resources. Citations for these materials have been transferred to the online database but without necessarily updating URLs, leading to some broken links.

Users can find statistics by browsing or by searching. Browsing will work best for most users, owing to the relatively small size of the database, the formality of some of the statistics titles, and the ease of locating relevant information. Browsing can be done either by state or by topic, although the latter is more useful.

Browsing by state leads to a general overview page for each state, with a few facts and a state flag at the top. From here, users can view population information or browse the location’s Highs and Lows, though it is not immediately clear how specific data sets are included to provide these measurements. While this can be mildly diverting, those looking for specific kinds of information about a state will find faster access via the Browse by Topic function.

Clicking on the Topic link allows users to select any of the topics listed above. Once at the topic page, they will see a few highlighted statistics presented in graphic form, followed by a list of all available data sets, sorted by subcategory.

It’s also possible to search for datasets by name, and an advanced search allows filtering of results by year, demographics, and type (currency, integers, percentages, etc.).

Information is at first presented in map form. The 50 states are shaded according to how they rank by the feature under consideration. Unfortunately, the key provided doesn’t indicate what the map colors mean. Users need to mouse over each state to see a small pop-up of the data, and a time line at the bottom of the image allows them to flip easily through multiple years of statistics. Pressing a Play button initiates an animation of the data over the available timespan.

Once a data set is selected, the power of the online database over the print publications really becomes apparent‚ users have the ability to compare multiple sets. It is easy to add multiple states, data series, and years, and a user could have a lot of fun manipulating the results.

CQ allows the data to be exported in multiple formats. Maps and graphs can be downloaded as PNG files. They are downloaded exactly as they appear on screen, however, and this means that downloaded images retain remnants of the disabled interactive features (such as the zoom and scroll buttons).

Material can also be exported as Excel files, typically one year at a time, although bulk movement is also available. Exported data files include the date of download, descriptions of the data, and (quite important) original source information.

Users can email links to data sets to themselves or others, but recipients must have access to State Stats in order to view the results.

Pricing Pricing for State Stats is based on FTE and starts at $2500.

Verdict Much of the information available in State Stats comes from publicly available sources. But those sources are seldom as simple to use as State Stats is, and few governmental statistics repositories have the functionality to compare data as easily as State Stats does. Libraries will have to weigh the cost of this resource with its ease of use.

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Bonnie Swoger About Bonnie Swoger

Bonnie J.M. Swoger is the Science and Technology Librarian at SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library and the author of the Undergraduate Science Librarian blog, undergraduatesciencelibrarian.org. Readers can contact her at swoger@geneseo.edu.

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