Ari Lamstein

Update on My Collaboration with the Census Bureau

In November I announced a new collaboration with the Census Bureau around data science training. Today I’d like to provide an update on this project.

I recently presented a draft of my first course for this project internally and it was well received. The working title of this course is Mapping State ACS Data in R with Choroplethr. We are using github to store the course materials, and you can view them here.

If you are interested in this project then I recommend starring and following the repository on github. Why? Because that’s the best way to learn about new training materials! Also, Steven Johnson and Maggie Cawley from Boomerang Geospatial are currently working on a course for this project that relates to OpenStreetMap and Census Geography. If you follow this repository then you will learn as soon as that course is available.

Comparison with Learn to Map Census Data in R

Mapping State ACS Data in R with Choroplethr can be thought of as a super-charged version of my email course Learn to Map Census Data in R.  The “final project” in both courses is the same: the creation of this this map, which shows the percent change in per capita income between 2010 and 2015:

The main differences between the courses relate to content, medium and community.


Learn to Map Census Data in R is a short course that aims to give people a quick win in writing R code that maps data from the US Census Bureau. Students are expected to know at least a bit of R beforehand.

Mapping State ACS Data in R with Choroplethr is a longer course that has no prerequisites. In fact, the first module provides information on installing R and getting set up with RStudio. The longer format also allows me to provide more information about the American Community Survey and how it differs from the Decennial Census. This is material that I had to skip in Learn to Map Census Data in R.


Mapping State ACS Data in R with Choroplethr will be an asynchronous video course. All the lessons will have video that you can watch on demand, as well as downloadable code examples. This will allow learners to easily skip over content that they already know or rewatch lessons that they found confusing the first time through.

By contrast, all the content in Learn to Map Census Data in R is delivered via email. That makes it great for a short course. But it limits the amount of content that I can deliver, and it also makes it hard for students to review past lessons.


In Learn to Map Census Data in R the only interaction that the learner has is with me, via email. While the details haven’t been finalized yet, we are hoping to create an online community that will allow students to interact not only with each other, but also potentially the Census Bureau’s Data Dissemination Specialists.

Next Steps

The final version of Mapping State ACS Data in R with Choroplethr will be submitted by the end of March. The best way to know about changes to the curriculum is to follow the github repository, which you can do here.

Ari Lamstein

Ari Lamstein

I currently work as a Staff Data Science Engineer at a marketing analytics consultancy. I have 20 years experience developing software in areas such as data science, web development and video games. I have also worked as a technical trainer and independent consultant.

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