Data Is Plural

... is a weekly newsletter of useful/curious datasets.

2016.01.13 edition

Religion, borders, foreign aid, language preferences, and diplomatic reimbursements.

Religion in America. The 2010 Religious Congregations and Membership Study counts, for more than 200 religious groups, the number of congregations and adherents in each U.S. state and county. In total, the study reported more than 344,000 congregations and more than 150 million adherents — nearly half of the 2010 U.S. population. New counts are published every 10 years. [h/t Julia Silge]

Shifting global borders. What did the world’s political boundaries look like in 1945? The lines between Swedish counties in 1968? The U.S. states in 1865? Thenmap, an open-source API and mapping tool, answers these questions and more. [h/t Carlos Matallín]

U.S. foreign assistance. USAID, the Peace Corps, the U.S. African Development Foundation, and other agencies report data on foreign assistance spending to The full dataset includes detailed information for each grant and contract — and comes with data dictionary. The website also provides a chart of participating agencies, and an interactive map of the data.

Retirees’ language preferences. Last year, more than 2 million people applied for new Social Security retirement and survivor benefits. When they did, they indicated their preferred language. More than 93% said English, and about 5% of applicants said Spanish — the second most popular choice. Among the 88 other options: 1,616 applicants chose American Sign Language, 32 chose Japanese, nine chose Yiddish, and one chose Swedish.

State Department per diems. When State Department employees travel on official business abroad, they can get reimbursed — to a point — for lodging, meals, and things such as laundry. The department publishes monthly spreadsheets of the maximum per diems, which vary by location. The highest right now? The Cayman Islands ($735 per day). The lowest? Antarctica ($0/day) and Iraq ($11/day).