You may be aware that we recently announced our intent to release all state and county data for free through Govistics and unveiled a new-and-improved interface. This post should serve as a quick primer on how to access and use the free data, if you’re unfamiliar with Govistics.
Govistics is a searchable online database allowing users to view, track, compare and download U.S. Census of Governments data showing revenue, spending, employment and payroll information for 39,000 state and local governments and spending and revenue for 15,000 school districts nationwide. State- and county-level data are free, and a subscription for as little as 99 cents unlocks access to the full spectrum of information in Govistics.
The New Interface
First, an introduction to our new landing page interface.
We simplified it quite a bit so it should be fairly self-explanatory. Without having to log in, you can use the search bar to type in any county or state name and you can access the full complement of the Govistics data on that government and its peer governments for free. A drop-down list will appear as you type in the name, and you can just select your choice from that menu.
After you click the name of a county or state, here’s an example of what you’ll see:
- Both total spending/revenue figures and spending/revenue for several categories and sub-categories (notice the drop-down menu under “Spending Category”) for the most recent year that U.S. Census of Governments data are available for that particular county or state;
- Both total payroll and employment figures (payroll is the aggregate $ spent on salaries, employment is the aggregate # of employees) and payroll/employment figures for several categories and sub-categories (see below);
- Historic trend data for the last 10-11 years in spending and revenue and employment and payroll for all categories and sub-categories (see below);
- The ability to compare spending and revenue data with peer governments that you can either have Govistics generate for you or you can generate yourself (see below);
- The ability to download Excel spreadsheets for all data (the “Download Excel File” button follows you from page to page);
- Serious crime data sourced from the FBI Unified Crime Reports, plus the ability to track trends, to drill down into various sub-categories (property crimes, burglaries, etc.), to compare with peer governments, and again to download Excel spreadsheets (see below);
No matter where you go in the database, you will be able to easily access the “source” of the data by clicking the “Documentation” button at the bottom of the menu on the left-hand side (important for researchers and journalists).
You can always easily change your location by typing in the name of a new county or state in the upper right-hand corner search bar.
If, assuming you’re not logged in, you type in the name of a municipal government or school district, here’s what you’ll see:
So What’s Free, Exactly?
Without logging in, without subscribing, you can access all U.S. Census of Governments and FBI Unified Crime Reports data for all 3,000+ counties across the country and for the 50 states. This is all for free, plus you don’t ever have to give your name or email address.
And What’s Not Free?
In our database, we have U.S. Census of Governments and FBI Unified Crime Reports data on file for approximately 39,000 towns, villages, boroughs, parishes, townships, cities, and just about every iteration of local government you can think of. We also have all the spending, revenue and historic trend data for 15,000 public school districts across the country.
For that level of access, you can pay 99 cents (we use PayPal) for one full day (you provide your email address and come up with a password, and then you can log in at your convenience). You can alternatively pay $14.99 for one full month (good if you’re working on a research paper or another project with a deadline coming up in a couple of weeks), or $49.99 for a year (great if you’re a wonk by trade or at heart, a public official, or otherwise are occupied with issues of public finance on a regular basis).
Who Uses Govistics?
We have lots of individual users from across the country who sign up for one-day accounts. We have even more (hundreds) who peruse the database day-to-day for free.
Otherwise, our users are in academia. Columbia University, the University of Rochester, and St. John Fisher College are all among our institutional subscribers, meaning that all students at those colleges have full access to Govistics if they log in from anywhere on campus. We also have users who are policy-makers, some who are interested in tailor-made versions of Govistics for their needs (we offer a “Regional Dashboard” option).
Where Do We Get Our Data?
See our “About Data” page. The U.S. Census of Governments provides us with the spending/revenue and employment/payroll data we need for all governments and school districts. The FBI Unified Crime Reports provide us with all serious crime data for local governments.
Why Should I Care?
Never before have U.S. Census of Governments data and FBI Unified Crime Reports data been presented in such a user-friendly format.
Govistics is easy-to-use and provides an astonishing level of detail. You can compare governments and school districts apples-to-apples, download Excel spreadsheets for your research purposes at the click of a button, and develop an increased level of understanding on the differences between government and school district priorities in regions across the United States.
Govistics has been called by one user “the most comprehensive public finance database on the web,” and we are proud of that distinction. Please take the time to explore the site. We hope you find it not only helpful, but fun!