Beaches. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s BEACON system contains data on more than 5,000 public beaches. For each state’s most “significant” beaches, BEACON’s downloadable reports include data on water quality, pollution advisories, closures, and more. Of these highly-visited beaches, the longest — at nearly 24 miles — is the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area’s South Jetty, also home to “the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America.”
Internet access. Through its Form 477 program, the Federal Communications Commission collects detailed data on broadband internet access in the United States. One of the easiest ways to access county-level data is through the agency’s Mapping Broadband Health in America project, which overlays internet access data and physical health indicators. The latest tabulations come from 2014. In more than a quarter of counties with at least 1,000 residents that year, broadband reached less than 50% of the population.
Music makers. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) boasts a membership of “more than 585,000 US composers, songwriters, lyricists and music publishers of every kind of music.“ The organization also maintains a downloadable catalog of the writers and publishers behind nearly 9 million songs. (But the downloaded files lack key details, such as the date the song was published.)
Relative living standards. The Penn World Table contains GDP estimates, normalized for purchasing power, for 182 countries. These “real GDP” estimates — based on a combination of price surveys and national accounts data — stretch back at least to 1960, and many to 1950. In the most recent year available, 2014, Qatar’s real GDP per capita ranked highest: roughly $144,340 in 2011 U.S. dollars. The Central African Republic’s ranked lowest (~$594), and the United States’ ranked 11th (~$52,292). [h/t Willem Kerstholt]
Hunter-gatherers. In the 1990s, ethnoarchaeologist Lewis Binford digitized more than 200 variables describing 339 groups of hunter-gatherers, a project his collaborator and widow Amber Johnson continues to maintain. The data come from historical ethnographies of societies, ranging from the Chichimec of the 1570s (in what is now Mexico), to the Dorobo of the 1920s (in what is now Kenya), to the Shompen of the 1980s (in the Nicobar Islands).