End of Week One: Where Data Comes From

When I set out on the beginning of this project last week, I decided to focus my research for the first couple of weeks on data collection.  Going in to this project, I knew that my data collection would need to be creative.  For starters, it is not easy to find resources detailing census information for current years.  The most easily accessible resources that supplied me with wealths of information and analysis supplied data only as recent as about 1940.  Upon further investigation, I found that this is because of a 72-year restriction on access to census data that is in place in order to protect individuals’ data and security.  Finding historical data was pretty easy, but finding everything I wanted from current years all in one place proved slightly more difficult.  However, knowing that I was looking for only certain information on neighborhood socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity rather than specifics on individual’s identities helped guide my search on where to look next.

The most wonderful thing I stumbled upon while talking to people and exploring Chicago was the Newberry Library.  The Newberry is a private library in Chicago that is dedicated to research.  When I first found out about it, it was described to me as “William and Mary Special Collections, but on steroids.”  Since spending more time here, I have decided that to be an excellent summary of what it is.  I spent a lot of time there this past week reading materials in the library and getting a background in the history of neighborhoods in Chicago.  The librarians there have given me a wealth of information to pursue and other academic library locations in the city with specific resources to look in to.

My goal for the next week of research will be to visit these places to find out more and hopefully start collecting my data in a more organized manner.  Stay tuned for updates, and thanks for reading!


P.S. I’ve been reading Heat Wave by Eric Klinenberg on the side.  If you haven’t read it and are at all interested in Chicago history, sociology, or public health, I would highly recommend checking it out!