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Vietnamese Diaspora Data Visualization

Cover image

Vietnamese Refugee Data from UNHCR Analysis

Between the years of 1976-1997 over one million Vietnamese fled Vietnam. Over 700,000 were boat people. My parents were among them, migrating to the United States in the 1980's. In order to understand more of the Vietnamese diaspora, I analyzed data from the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. I pulled the data from the UN, cleaned it, hosted it in a Postgresql server, built API's, and created visualizations using D3.js.

Getting the Data

In order to collect the data, I researched various data collectors. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, was created in 1950 to address the refugee crisis that resulted from WWII. Since then, it collected statistics on refugee intake. I used their public Refugee Data Finder to download statistics of refugees from Vietnam. The data includes the Country of Origin, the state the refugees sought asylum, and the number of refugees, number assisted by UNHCR, among other statistics. I cleaned the data for the columns that were of interest to me.

Storing the Data

To analyze the data, I created an Postgresql server, hosting it on a Linux machine. The schema looked like:



Creating APIs

To quickly protoype the visualizations, I used Nodejs with Express to create a webserver. I used the pg-promise package which provides a PostgreSQL interface for Node.js. When the route /all is called it makes a select request to the Postgres database and returns a JSON representation of the table.

Creating the Visualizations

I used d3.js, a powerful visualization library, to make visualizations using the data. I used the same server that hosted the APIs, and used AJAX requests to fetch from the api endpoint. I was interested in the destinations that refugees sough asylum.

I created a d3.js map that showed the countries where Vietnamese refugees sought asylum, and when hovering a tooltip showed the total number of refugees.

d3.js map

I was also interested in the number of refugees over time, and created a stacked bar chart of countries which took Vietnamese refugees. When hovering over a segment, it shows the year, and the amount accepted.

stacked bar char

Next Steps

Throughout the process, I gained some technical skills as well as learned more about the diaspora of Vietnamese. It gave me insight into where refugees ended up, and I learned more about the methodology that the UN uses when creating the statistics. It relies on countries to report to the UN how many refugees they accepted. There are flaws in the method and makes me wonder how many more were undocumented or the total of people who left Vietnam. In later phases I would like to do more analysis and find more data sources to learn more about the diaspora.

More info can be found on the github repo.

Tools used:

  • D3.js
  • Postgresql
  • Node.js