• Michael Lotspeich

A resource for social scientists interested in research on Illinois' communities.

I recently archived my first dataset with the University Libraries at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, entitled 'State of Illinois - Common Spatial Geodatabase for the Social Sciences'. The shapefile is compiled from multiple state and federal data sources, and is available at

The geodatabase serves two purposes: 1) to provide State of Illinois agencies with a fast resource for the preparation of maps and figures that require the use of shape or line files from federal agencies, the State of Illinois, or the City of Chicago, and 2) as a start for social scientists interested in exploring how geographic information systems (whether this is data visualization or geographically weighted regression) can bring new meaning to the interpretation of their data.

Social problems exist within space and time, and thus there are forces at play in Illinois’ communities that are not considered by aspatial theories and analysis. As an undergraduate at Illinois learning about Geographic Information Systems, I would have appreciated having a resource like this to reduce the barrier of entry for a social scientist to think about measures spatially. It just changes your cognitive framework when you can visualize things like racial stratification, population distribution, political election results… or even how all of these measures interact with one another! GIS enhance sociological research by encouraging a different way of thinking about societal challenges.

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