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Demographic Data in Community Assessment

Shari Goldberg, Colby-Sawyer College
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


Students answer the question, "What makes your community distinctive? " Each student, or group of students, is assigned to a local community. Students work with a number of local, state, and national websites as they gather information for a community assessment, utilizing the Community-as-Partner model. Demographic data including age, race, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, occupation, and marital status are collected. The collected data compare local findings with state and national findings. Students learn about their assigned community based on how it compares with state and national data. Students create a graph utilizing the nesting (local, state and national) statistics, and use the information gathered to help identify needs in the community.

Learning Goals

1. Students will gain an understanding of population-based data, and, in a general sense, how it is used to identify problems and incorporate solutions.
2. Students will develop/refine skills to access and interpret web-based population data.
3. Students will create an Excel graph including the local, state and national data for their assigned topic.
4. Students will be more confident in charting data using Excel.
5. Students will be able to apply these skills in other course projects.

Context for Use

This assignment is part of a year long-community capstone course for nursing students. During the fall semester, the students complete a community assessment and formulate a preliminary plan. The implementation and evaluation of the plan is completed during the spring semester. This assignment is given early in the fall semester at the beginning of the community assessment. Students are assigned to a local community in groups of 3-5. Each group collects demographic data so that students are able to learn about their community, and more specifically, identify potential population-based needs.

Description and Teaching Materials

  1. Choose a local community
  2. Utilize websites to determine the age, race, ethnicity, income, occupation, unemployment, and educational attainment of: the community, state in which the community is located, and the US. Some helpful websites include:
  3. Create a table with the demographic data for the areas listed in #2 for the community, state and the US.
  4. Create an Excel graph that illustrates the data that you have gathered in a visual display.
  5. Answer the following questions: 1)What do the nesting statistics tell you about your community? 2)What are 3 observations that may be made based on the data? What are 3 things that you would like to know about your community based on your observations?

Teaching Notes and Tips

Students are often overwhelmed with all of the data that are available. I have each student focus on one demographic piece and then as a group, they present all of the required demographic information as part of an end-of-the semester presentation. Students are given 2 weeks to collect the demographic information and create tables and graphs highlighting their findings.


A rubric for the course paper on the entire community assessment is distributed to students, and this includes the analysis of the demographic data. Assessment is based on the analysis of how the demographic data informs the community assessment through text and visual displays of information.

References and Resources

Anderson, E.T. & McFarlane, J. (2008). Community as partner: Theory and practice in nursing (5th ed.). New York: Lippincott. Maurer, F. A., & Smith, C. M. (2005). Community/public health nursing practice: Health for families and populations (3rd ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier