Data Story Telling: Carroll County, MD and White Segregation

One of the most promising features of the web for researchers is the ever increasing availability of downloadable data.   Along with this we have also seen a rise in the number of applications available to sift through the sets, find meaning, and present to the world.

If you follow the newest trends you have probably seen a few impressive data visualizations and infographics.  A Site like FlowingData is a great source if you haven’t.  But while many of these presentations are visually appealing, far fewer seem to tell a compelling story.  For that you need to first find something meaningful.

The following graphics/tables are intended to tell the story of Carroll County, Maryland’s segregated growth in the last few decades.  The data was pulled from the Maryland State Data Center Demographic Outlook. I purposefully decided to use multiple tools including ManyEyesTableau Public, and Excel.   There is no need to stay loyal to just one application as each one has its own set of advantages, disadvantages, and quirks.  Pick the tools that will help you best tell your story.  Just as a note, I grew up in Carroll County.

High Percentage White County in a Diverse Metro Region

Carroll County is part of a diverse Baltimore Area Metro Region.   According to the Maryland State Data Center projections, in 2010, 65% of the population in the Baltimore Metro Region were white.  For Carroll County, that projection was 93%.

Remaining a High Percentage White County

For Carroll County, having a high percentage white population is nothing new.  Such has been the case for the past several decades.  But while fellow metro area counties have seen increasing levels of diversity, Carroll has not.

Remaining High Percentage White While Growing

I know the argument, “so it was a predominately white county before and has remained so, what’s the big deal?”

The big deal is that Carroll is not a county with a stagnant population.  Since 1970 the population has more than doubled.  96% of the 81,872 persons added to Carroll County’s population in the past 4 decades were white, compared to only 30% of the growth in the whole Baltimore Metro Region.

I don’t believe Carroll is alone in this, you can find examples in towns, cities, and counties in suburban areas across the US.  The question this leaves is why?  If race is less of an issue than it was in the past, how come in the most recent decades growth in a suburban county like Carroll continues to be predominately white?  With where we live being such an important factor in our lives, from available services and jobs to schools and community, this is a question that we need to answer.