Milken Institute Research Department

The Community Explorer

Bringing Populations' Diversity into Policy Discussions, one County at a Time

The Community Explorer is an interactive tool that brings the power of big data and machine learning to the equity-related policy discussion.

It groups a wide variety of data—from economic and demographic numbers to education, housing, and health features— at the county level to tell a deeper story than when using few indicators at one time. More specifically, it synthetizes the infortmation of 751 variables across 3142 counties from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey using machine learning methods, into 17 communities. Each one of these communities has a distinctive profile that combines demographic, economic, and many other behavior determinants while not being geographically bounded.

When using the Community Explorer interactive tool, users can alternate between two ways to access the data:

**Select or search a county, profile, or group of profiles using the drop-down menus on the top of the map. Use drop-down menus on the top of charts to select different information; the corresponding charts compare the county, profile, and US information.

These profiles can be summarized as follows:

Urban America captures 74% of the U.S. population spread across 819 urban core, suburban, and small metro counties.
1-Urban-Core => Prosperous, ethnically and linguistically diverse large metro areas with substantial disparities between their highly educated (largely White ) and less educated (largely Black or African American) residents (26% of the population)
2-Lower-Middle Class => Less populous suburban and small metro counties that are not as economically prosperous as the rest of Mainstream America (18% of the population)
3-Affluent Suburbs => Affluent and more populous (but less diverse) suburban and small metro counties that jointly represent the profile with the highest median income (16% of the population)
4-Middle Class => Middle-class communities with a largely White population that resides in large- to medium-sized suburban and small metro counties (14% of the population)

Industry-Driven America captures 17% of the U.S. population spread across 1507 counties in which employment is concentrated in one industry that shapes all aspects of the population’s profile.
5-College Towns => College towns with a relatively young, highly educated, and highly geographically mobile population (5.4% of the population)
6-Manufacturing Midwest => Counties primarily located in the Midwest that form the profile with the highest proportion of White population working in the manufacturing sector (5.2% of the population)
7-Low-Wage Manufacturing => Low-wage workers in the manufacturing and chemical industries located largely in the South and North-East regions of the country, with an above-average proportion of the population living below the poverty line (4.9% of the population)
11-Hispanic Agriculture => Highly agricultural communities with a higher than average concentration of Hispanic or Latino population residing mostly in the West and South (1.2% of the population)
15-The Great Plains => => Agricultural counties located in the Great Plains with a high proportion of the White population (0.3% of the population)

Graying America captures 5.1% of the U.S. population spread across 424 counties that jointly represent the highest concentration of population of age 65 years or older.
8-Retiree Communities => Retiree communities with adequate household incomes and access to economic resources (4.5% of the population)
13-Isolated Seniors => Isolated seniors with high disability rates and relatively low incomes (0.6% of the population)

Extremely Vulnerable America captures 3.5% of the U.S. population spread across 378 counties that represent the profile with the lowest of levels of income.
9-Hispanic Southern Border => Counties mostly located along the U.S. southern border with a majority of a relatively young Hispanic or Latino population living in extreme poverty (1.4% of the population)
10-Black South => Southern counties with the highest proportion of Black or African American population and lowest median household income of all profiles (1.3% of the population)
12-White Appalachia => White communities in Appalachia with the third-highest level of unemployment rates and second-lowest household income of all profiles (0.7% of the U.S. population)
16-American Indian Reservations => American Indian Reservation communities living in extreme poverty with more than one-third of the population with income below the poverty line (0.1% of the population)

Noncontiguous America captures 0.42% of the U.S. population spread across 14 counties that combine all Hawaiian and nine Alaskan counties.
14-Hawaii => The Aloha State with high racial and ethnic diversity, high income, and relatively low-income inequality (0.4% of the population)
17-Native Alaska => Alaskan communities with large economic gaps between the White and Alaska Native populations (0.02% of the population)  

Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

If you use this data, please attribute it to "Milken Institute Community Explorer" in any publication.
We recommend the following citation: Lopez, Claude and Hyeongyul Roh, Community Explorer, Milken Institute (2022)
If you use it in an online presentation, we would appreciate it if you would link to the Milken Institute page at

Related Projects

- The Community Explorer (17 profiles based on 751 factors)
- The Community Explorer (8 profiles based on 26 factors)
- The Community Explorer: Informing Policy with County-Level Data
- COVID-19 Community Explorer (17 Profiles)
- COVID-19 Community Explorer (8 Profiles)
- Weighing Down America: 2020 Update

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