Below is a selection of responses to commonly asked questions that the project team at Harvard Business School has received about the U.S. Cluster Mapping Project. Please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions that you do not see addressed here or elsewhere on the website.
From the Clusters Landing Page, users can:
- View national level data for clusters across the economy based on core indicators such as employment and wages
- Learn about the types of clusters in the U.S. by browsing the default display. Click on any bubble to go to a specific cluster dashboard
- Compare employment, wages, job creation, specialization, timeline, and innovation across clusters
Alternatively, users can investigate individual Cluster Dashboards and visually compare the data contained within against other Cluster Dashboards.
How do I compare clusters across regions?
The Region Comparison Tool allows users to directly compare up to 10 selected regions (States, Economic Areas, Metro/Micropolitan Statistical Areas, and Counties) across various clusters and indicators. For a full explanation of how to use the Region Comparison Tool, read more here.
How do I compare clusters within a region?
To compare the performance of different clusters within one particular region, users can navigate to their specific Region Dashboard, then click on the Cluster Portfolio tab. This page illustrates the strongest traded clusters in this region, as well as its top performing traded and local clusters. The charts below rank the leading clusters in this region based on a set of core performance indicators. Click on any of the bars in a chart to explore a cluster's subclusters, go to a Cluster Dashboard, or go to a Region-Cluster Dashboard. Users can view employment, wage, job creation, specialization, timeline, and innovation data across a region’s traded and local clusters.
Each particular Region Dashboard Summary page has a Cluster section, which features a snapshot of the region’s strongest traded clusters, biggest clusters by employment, and a chart of the region’s traded vs. local clusters. Each Region Dashboard also has a Cluster Portfolio tab, where users can investigate the regional economy’s own distinct portfolio of clusters. This tab illustrates the strongest traded clusters in this region, as well as its top performing traded and local clusters. By choosing a particular cluster from this portfolio, the user comes to a Region-Cluster Dashboard. This provides data on a cluster located in a specific region (a regional cluster). The map illustrates the economic geography of this regional cluster. From the Region-Cluster Dashboard, users can see a map visualization of how a chosen cluster in their region compares to that same cluster in other regions across the country in various key indicators (specialization, employment, establishments, etc.
What are local and traded clusters?
Traded clusters serve markets in other regions or nations, and are concentrated in regions that afford specific competitive advantages. Local clusters sell products and services primarily for the local market and are located in every region. To learn more about cluster classification, please see our Cluster Mapping Methodology page.
Each particular Region Dashboard has a Cluster Portfolio tab, where users can investigate the regional economy’s own distinct portfolio of clusters. This tab illustrates the strongest traded clusters in this region, as well as its top performing traded and local clusters. Additionally, users can view a short summary of the region’s percentages of traded and local clusters by scrolling down to the Cluster Portfolio section of the Region Dashboard.
How do I view data relating to a specific cluster in my region?
Each particular Region Dashboard has a Cluster Portfolio tab, where users can investigate the regional economy’s own distinct portfolio of clusters. This tab illustrates the strongest traded clusters in this region, as well as its top performing traded and local clusters. By choosing a particular cluster from this portfolio, the user comes to a Region-Cluster Dashboard. This provides data on a cluster located in a specific region (a regional cluster). The map illustrates the economic geography of this regional cluster. Users can also view data on each cluster’s subclusters. From the Region-Cluster Dashboard, users can see a map visualization of how a chosen cluster in their region compares to that same cluster in other regions across the country in various key indicators (specialization, employment, establishments, and so on).
The traded cluster categories and local cluster categories consist of 6-digit NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) industries, each exclusively assigned to one cluster category. The data for these cluster categories are based on national patterns of industry employment, establishment, input-output, and labor occupation linkages. The 6-digit NAICS codes are not split between clusters, so for example, establishments primarily engaged in aluminum production would be assigned to the traded cluster Metal Mining, while establishments primarily in power generation would be assigned to the traded cluster Electric Power Generation and Transmission. The industries in clusters can be related, however. Please see Cluster Mapping Methodology for more information.
If a user is not sure which cluster their industry belongs to, they are encouraged to check the Cluster Mapping Methodology page, the Appendices in particular. In each Appendix (one each for Traded and Local clusters), a definition of each cluster is given, with individual industries linked to particular NAICS codes.
How do I identify other industries that are in my cluster(s)?
If a user is not sure which other industries belong to their cluster, they are encouraged to check the Cluster Mapping Methodology page, the Appendices in particular. In each Appendix (one each for Traded and Local clusters), a definition of each cluster is given, with individual industries linked to particular NAICS codes. Additionally, users can go to their particular Cluster Dashboard and navigate to the Subcluster tab. Here, users will find a list of subclusters that make up their greater cluster.
How do I find which NAICS code my industry is aligned with?
If you are not sure which cluster your industry is aligned with, and also do not know which NAICS code applies to your business, search the U.S. Census Bureau’s NAICS page. From this page, users can search for their industry to find the NAICS code that applies to their business.
How do I identify related clusters?
The USCMP is currently developing an in-depth visualization of related clusters. Users will be able to explore an overview of these relations from the Clusters Landing Page and specific linkages from individual Cluster Dashboards.
How can I understand emerging clusters in a region?
Analyses of existing cluster portfolios in your region and the (coming) information about related clusters can give you a sense of what areas are likely candidates to emerge in your region. New activities in a region tend to grow from existing ones, recombining existing capabilities or building on them to add new, complementary ones. The time series data provide useful information about trends. In addition, the rich information about the current situation and cluster portfolio in a region can help users to understand which future scenarios are most relevant, and which of those seem more likely. Importantly, one also has to understand general trends in the respective markets (demand side) and the dynamics in peer clusters (competition).
The Region Comparison Tool allows users to directly compare up to 10 selected regions (States, Economic Areas, Metro/Micropolitan Statistical Areas, and Counties) across various clusters and indicators. For a full explanation of how to use the Region comparison tool, read more here.
Users can create custom regions comprised of counties by using the Custom Region Builder. Use this tool to explore data on a region that you can build out of any U.S. counties. Start by selecting a set of counties. Click on a county twice to remove it from your selection. Once you save your selection, a loading bar will appear. After some time (depending on how many counties you selected), a link to your custom region will appear on your user profile page. This custom region dashboard will not be made publicly available but will be saved in your user profile and have a permanent link which you can refer back to and share with others.
How do I find my region (State, Metro/Micropolitan Statistical Area, Economic Area, or County)?
By going to the Regions Landing Page, users can explore a map view of the US and see regions laid out as States, MSAs, EAs, or counties by choosing different options in the dropdown menu. Users can also search for their region by entering their region name or ZIP code in the search bar.
Users can identify subregions by navigating to the map view on the Regions Landing Page, visually identifying the geographic area of interest, and filtering the map using the Region Type dropdown menu. Users can also find subregions by navigating to their particular Region Dashboard, then navigating to the “Sub-Regions” tab.
From any specific Region Dashboard, navigate to the Performance and Drivers tab. Click on any sparkline chart to view a scatterplot of how your region compares to comparable regions and the U.S. average. In many scatterplots, users can filter the information displayed by time, comparison set, and comparison item. Users can also do a comparison between specific regions by using the Region Comparison tool.
The Region Landing Page provides data on the economic performance, cluster composition, and sub-regional composition of this region. The map illustrates the economic geography of this region. Use the dropdown filters on the map to adjust the type of data displayed. The list of economic indicators will change based on the primary indicator chosen. Click on any region to navigate to that Region’s Dashboard and explore specific regional data.
Why doesn't the website show data for other region types, such as Congressional Districts or Economic Development Districts?
Regional boundaries can be drawn in many different ways, often influenced by the goals or purpose for defining the region. Often these definitions have little or nothing to to do with the economy character of the area. Examples include Congressional Districts, watersheds or soil conservation districts. One of the goals of the U.S. Cluster Mapping website is to show the relationships of different quantitative aspects of local economies in a manner that allows easy comparisons and analysis across regions. Regions that do not conform to the limitations of how data are captured (counties, metro areas, states, etc) do not allow meaningful study, so they are not pre-designed into the maps on the site. For synthetic regional definitions that may not correspond to the actual regional economy, such as the boundaries of Economic Development Districts or SBDC service delivery areas, the website has a powerful tool allowing you to create customized regions at the county level. More information about building custom regions is available here.
Community of Practice
How do I find other organizations (and Institutions for Collaboration) in my region?
Our Organizations Registry maps cluster initiatives and institutions for collaboration across North America. Users can either browse the Organizations map or peruse the Registry in text form. Both the map and the list can be filtered by organization type and cluster specialization. Users can add their own organizations to the Registry, indicating contact information, cluster details, and more so that other leaders in the field can reach out for collaboration. The “Organizations” tab on each cluster and region-cluster dashboard returns relevant organizations from our Registry.
How do I add an organization to the registry? How do I make sure that my user profile links to my organization profile?
First, a user should determine if their organization is already listed on the site. The easiest way is to search for your organization’s name in the search bar at the top right of every page. If your organization is listed, contact us at email@example.com so that we can authorize you to edit your organization's page. If your organization is not listed, go to the Organizations page and click the “Add Organization” button on the right. Fill out the form for your organization. Feel free to check back and update it so that the information stays up-to-date and accurate.
How do the cluster initiative(s) in my region relate to the cluster composition of my region?
By comparing entries in the Registry against the list of strong, traded clusters in a particular region, users can get an idea of how the cluster community in the region is already being served, and where the potential for new organizations or initiatives exists.
How do I find organizations related to a particular cluster?
On each individual Cluster Dashboard, users will find a tab labeled “Organizations”. In this section, users will find a list of organizations in our registry that have been tagged to that particular cluster. Users can also navigate to this list by going to the Organizations Registry and filtering the Organizations Map by cluster.
How do I add relevant news and announcements to the site?
To add a blog post, simply navigate to the Blog section. At the upper right hand corner of the screen, you will see a button labeled “Add Blog.” Click this button, fill in the relevant fields, and save. In the event of any issues or questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org . News and announcements related to national and regional economies, industries, clusters, or innovation can added to the blog.
How do I find relevant research and publications?
In our Community of Practice section users can find a Resources repository. The Resources section contains tools, technical documents, academic research and much more, all tagged to relevant clusters, regions, and organizations where applicable. Users are encouraged to submit their own resources, and to draw on the array of resources already available through the portal.
How do I add relevant research and publications to the site?
To add a resource to the site, simply navigate to the Resources section. At the upper right hand corner of the screen, you will see a button labeled “Add Resource.” Click this button, fill in the relevant fields, and save. In the event of any issues or questions, email email@example.com . In general, any kind of report, paper, or permanent document related to national and regional economies, industries, clusters, or innovation can be added to the Resources section.
How can I learn about upcoming events?
For a list of upcoming events related to clusters and economic development, users are encouraged to visit our Upcoming Events page. Users can also opt to receive our monthly newsletter, which includes a list of upcoming events as well as project announcements, news stories, and funding opportunities. To submit an event for inclusion on our list, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Users can also add event summaries to our blog.
Why do some clusters show different figures for economic activity by state than what I have seen on certain federal government datasets?
This is because the U.S. Census Bureau's County Business Patterns, which form the basis for the cluster definitions, only include private, non-agricultural industries in a state (with some small allowance for suppression and estimates in the data).
Why do some state employment estimates look lower than a specific city's employment estimate within that state? Isn't that impossible?
The U.S. Census Bureau intentionally suppresses data to maintain confidentiality of private firms (so payroll and employment cannot be reverse-engineered; more information available here). We receive this data at the state and county level.
When we receive the data, we only know the number of establishments and a range of the number of employees in a region. We estimate the number of employees by taking the midpoint of that range, which can distort the actual employment numbers. This means when we aggregate these county-level estimates up to the MSA or EA level, we may be compounding some of the estimation error. This is why sometimes there is a discrepancy between the state-level numbers of employment we get from the U.S. Census Bureau and the aggregated-estimates of county, MSA, or EA employment numbers.
You can examine the raw data, which will show you exactly how these numbers are composed. You can find this information by going to the Region dashboard, clicking on the "Cluster Portfolio" tab, clicking on a cluster bar in the bar chart, clicking "Explore Subclusters," clicking on a subcluster bar in the bar chart, and then clicking "Explore Industries."
Why doesn't the U.S. Cluster Mapping website use zipcode level data?
The U.S. Census does publish very redacted data at the zipcode level. We have not included such data because the focus of this project is on regional economies defined in most cases at a broader level than even county, and it is not core to the site to analyze zipcode tracts rather than broader counties. In addition, zipcode-level data do not conform to the website's stated goal of identifying cluster strengths in meaningful economic geographies.
What are the counties contained in each Metropolitan or Micropolitan Statistical Area?
Information on the counties contained in each metro or micro area is available as a .txt file at this U.S. Census page, broken down by MSA code, MSA name, FIPS code, and county name.
What are the counties contained in each Economic Area?
A listing of which counties are in a given Economic Area can be found in the Bureau of Economic Analysis's Economic Areas and Counties spreadsheet, available on our Cluster Mapping Methodology page.
How do I cite the website and data?
What are the data sources for the portal?
A full listing of our data sources can be found on our Data Sources and Limitations page.
Are your full cluster definitions available for download?
Users can find the full background on cluster definitions on our Cluster Mapping Methodology page.
How often do you update your data?
Our Data Sources and Limitations page includes information on how often users can expect new data.
What is the background of the U.S. Cluster Mapping Project?
To learn more about the background of the U.S. Cluster Mapping Project, users are encouraged to explore our About section. Key information on the project’s back ground can be found in Clusters 101, Cluster Mapping Methodology, Data Sources and Limitations, Glossary of Terms, and Key Research Behind the Project.
Are there any projects similar to the USCMP?
Why doesn't the U.S. Cluster Mapping website load for me?
If any part of the U.S. Cluster Mapping Website isn't loading, please make sure that your browser meets our system requirements. The browser server requirements to view the website are Google Chrome 9+, Internet Explorer 9+, or Mozilla Firefox 27+. Also, certain pages that draw on large data sets will require more loading time (for example, the Custom Region Builder often takes 15-30 seconds to load). We are currently working on enhancements to the site to improve user experience.
How do I use the search feature?
In the search bar at the top of each page, users can enter a variety of information to find what they’re looking for. If a user enters a cluster name, region name (State, MSA, EA, or county), ZIP code, or NAICS code, relevant results are autofilled immediately below the search bar. If a user enters an organization or user name and either presses “Enter” or clicks the search icon, relevant results will be returned on a separate page. Users can also find a specialized Region search bar on the Regions Landing Page.
How do I embed maps and download images and CSV files?
One of the foremost goals on the U.S. Cluster Mapping Project is to make this vital cluster data available to all. Users can download images of any map or chart on the site by clicking the image icon at the corner of any image, or they can download a .csv file of the data represented by clicking the download data icon. If a user would like to embed a particular map on their own website, they can do so by clicking the embed icon, copying the code, and pasting it in the desired destination.
Is your API available?
The USCMP’s web development team is working to make our full API available to all users. At this time, a draft API is available on request (email@example.com).
Will the business plan for the U.S. Cluster Mapping Project include sale of data and information gathered through the site?