Data Is Plural

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

2024.02.07 edition

Local election results, anti-Black killings in the mid-century South, US travel behavior, space X-rays, and amateur archaeological finds.

Local election results. Justin de Benedictis-Kessner et al. have compiled a dataset of 77,000+ (distinct) candidates across 57,000+ US elections for mayor, city council, school board, county executive, county legislature, sheriff, and prosecutor. It is, they write, “the most comprehensive publicly-available source of information on local elections across the entire country.” It includes “most medium and large cities and counties” and spans 1989 to 2021. The authors combined data from pre-existing databases, state election websites, and newspaper archives. They also “worked with a team of research assistants who coded results from thousands of local elections based on city and county websites.” For each candidacy, the core table indicates the election’s jurisdiction, office, and timing, plus the candidate’s name, incumbency status, party, estimated demographics, votes won, and more.

Mid-century anti-Black killings. The Burnham-Nobles Archive at the Northeastern University School of Law is “dedicated to identifying, classifying, and providing factual information and documentation about anti-Black killings in the mid-century South.” The current version focuses on 11 southern states during 1930–1954. Developed by political scientist Melissa Nobles and law professor Margaret Burnham, the long-running project has gathered 12,000+ news articles, death certificates, federal agency records, and other sources. It documents 900+ incidents and 950+ victims, as well as alleged perpetrators and judicial outcomes. The archive provides an interactive map, record search (including by person, incident, and document), and downloads. Previously: Beck/Tolnay and Seguin/Rigby’s data on lynching victims (DIP 2021.06.02). [h/t Jasmine Mithani]

US travel behavior. Fielded every five to eight years since 1968, the Federal Highway Administration’s National Household Travel Survey “is the authoritative source on the travel behavior of the American public.” The questionnaire asks respondents to inventory all of their household’s trips taken during a 24-hour period. The most recent survey, for 2022, includes ~31,000 trips by ~17,000 people in ~8,000 households. It indicates each trip’s duration, vehicle details, motivation, parking costs, traveler demographics, and much more. The FHA provides downloads of the anonymized data, as well as user guides and technical notes. As seen in: “The school bus is disappearing. Welcome to the era of the school pickup line,” by the Washington Post’s Andrew Van Dam.

Space X-rays. eROSITA is a wide-field X-ray telescope “capable of delivering deep, sharp images over very large areas of the sky,” helping researchers “to study the large-scale structure of the universe.” The telescope launched into orbit in 2019 as a collaboration between Russia and Germany, with data rights split between the countries. In February 2022, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germany’s Max Planck Institute suspended eROSITA’s operations. Data processing continued, however, and last week the institute published its first data release. It contains the first six months of results for the hemisphere assigned to Germany, and is “the largest X-ray catalogue ever published.”

Amateur archaeological finds. The British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme “records archaeological finds discovered by the public,” assisted by a network of national and local partners. Its database contains 1.1 million records describing 1.7 million objects. “All have been found by everyday people by chance, most through metal detecting.” The most common finds: coins (~500,000 records), buckles (~58,000), and brooches (~52,000). Search results are available in JSON, XML, and other structured formats. [h/t Maev Kennedy + Walt Hickey]