Archive for Sunday, March 28, 2010

Census data tells us about ourselves

Local Census leaders will put stickers on pizza boxes to remind university students to fill out their Census forms.

Local Census leaders will put stickers on pizza boxes to remind university students to fill out their Census forms.

March 28, 2010


If nothing else, do it for the love of the data.

Sure, you’ve heard how federal law requires you to send in your Census form. You’ve heard how accurate Census numbers can amount to billions of dollars in federal funding for a community.

But researchers say don’t forget the value of the data itself. If you want leaders and planners to understand your community, good Census data is often the place to start.

“There has been a very visible discussion about schools in this community,” said Ken Grotewiel, co-chairman of the Douglas County Complete Count Committee. “Whenever you are talking about allocating scarce resources to where the needs are, population comes into play.”

But the Census is about much more than just population. Although the Census forms — which all residents in Douglas County now should have received — mainly ask questions to determine population, those numbers are then used to gather much more detailed information.

The Census Bureau each month does surveys in communities across the country to figure out everything from how long a person commutes to work to how many people are living below the poverty line. Since the Census Bureau uses surveys to extrapolate data, having an accurate population total to begin with is key.

“In a roundabout way, the decennial Census is really the core data that control all the other data we’re going to receive for the next 10 years,” said Xan Wedel, an information specialist who works frequently with Census data at Kansas University’s Institute for Policy and Social Research.

“Basically, the more people who participate now, the better quality of the data we’re going to get,” she said. “And hopefully, better quality data will mean better decisions by our leaders.”

What the Census tells us

So, just what type of light can Census data shed on a community? Here’s a look at some tidbits gleaned from the most recent American Community Census report for Lawrence:

• 5,932 people in Lawrence carpool to work. That’s 12 percent of the total. Of the total, 73 percent drive alone. Another 6.8 percent, or about 3,300 people, walk to work.

• 14,031 people in Lawrence have some sort of government job. That’s 27 percent of the total, which is well above the statewide average of 16 percent.

• The average wage for a male full-time employee in Lawrence is $41,674. That’s below the statewide average of $43,331. The average wage for a female full-time employee is $33,752. That’s above the statewide average of $31,995.

• The percentage of families living below the poverty line is 10.7 percent. The statewide average is 8 percent.

• The largest number of existing houses in Lawrence were built between 1970 and 1979. That age range accounts for 21 percent. Homes built in 1990s account for 19 percent.

• 44 percent of Lawrence residents moved into their home in 2005 or later. That compares with a statewide average of 31 percent.

• 13,535 homes in Lawrence do not have access to a vehicle. That’s 5.7 percent, which is only slightly higher than the statewide average of 5.1 percent.

• 74 percent — or about 13,000 — homes in Lawrence have a mortgage. Statewide the average is 65 percent.

• 60 percent of Lawrence homeowners had average monthly housing costs — the cost includes a mortgage, utilities, insurance and taxes — of $1,499 or less. Statewide, 68 percent of homeowners had their costs fall within that range.

• 51 percent of renters had a monthly rent of $749 or less. Statewide, 63 percent had a rent of $749 or less.

• 49 percent of Lawrence renters paid 35 percent or more of their household income in rent. Statewide, 35 percent of renters paid 35 percent or more of their income in rent.

• 8,836 households in Lawrence had somebody under the age of 18. That’s 25 percent of the total. Statewide, the average was 34 percent.

• 56 percent of Lawrence males 18 and older have never been married. It is 49 percent for Lawrence females. Statewide, the numbers are 30 percent and 23 percent, respectively.

• 91 percent of all Lawrence residents were born in the United States; 51 percent were born in Kansas. Statewide, the numbers are 93 percent and 59 percent, respectively.

• 86 percent of Lawrence residents are white, 6 percent black. Statewide, it is 88 percent white and 6 percent black.

• 4 percent of Lawrence’s population is Hispanic. 8 percent of the state’s population is Hispanic.

All the numbers are three-year averages taken from the Census Bureau’s 2006 to 2008 community surveys. Lawrence, because of its size, has been part of the survey for multiple years. Smaller communities, though, will get their first data from the survey in December.

From that point forward, the Census Bureau will produce data for every city and geographical location in the country on an annual basis, Wedel said.

“I’m excited,” Wedel said. “There will be a flood of data.”


George Lippencott 8 years, 1 month ago

Interesting article. I want to focus on one little factoid – low-income citizens. We seem to have more than our fair share. Do we?

Before the faculty of the school of social services runs off to demand more of our local tax money to address this horrible statistic, does anyone know how that statistic was developed. Was it simply the normal census process of asking?

Thinking about it one might consider that we have many students here. Their incomes are low. Are they in poverty? Maybe? Of course, there may be money from mom and dad or grants and loans that are not captured by the census process. That is money that contributes directly or indirectly to our economy and certainly provides a higher standard of living to the recipients than might be reflected by the statistic.

My point is that there may be a lot of money we are not capturing in our statistics and that sum might significantly change the census snapshot. Maybe we are already doing enough for our true poor. Maybe we are not. Sure would be nice to know more about that number.

devobrun 8 years, 1 month ago

“Basically, the more people who participate now, the better quality of the data we’re going to get,” she said. “And hopefully, better quality data will mean better decisions by our leaders.”

I make my own decisions. I don't use leaders. More information gives people who aspire to leadership more ammunition to destroy the individual.

Transfer of government services from Lawrence, Ks. to say, Pontiac, Michigan will not help Lawrence. So, why not fill out your forms erroneously and get more goodies. Or avoid filling it out at all. Demand less government control and give government less information.

Learn how to take care of yourself.

Tell the government no thanks.

Or learn to love the data and the machine it feeds. Get an electronic implant for twitter feeds, facebook entries, and the latest from Hollywood. Connect, feel.

But above all, don't think for yourself. Be led.

“Each period is dominated by a mood, with the result that most men fail to see the tyrant who rules over them.” Einstein

Today's tyrant is "experts with computer models". They know better than you. The data and the model will lead you to a better life. Statistically speaking.

Moderateguy 8 years, 1 month ago

I filled out the number of people living at my address and left the rest blank. All the other info is for social engineering and income redistribution. The constitution allows for the counting of the populace for purposes of congressional redistricting, nothing else.

jniebaum 8 years, 1 month ago

I believe in the census process and have already submitted the form for our household. However, this census form is a big disappointment in the following ways. Q5. Last Name, First Name, MI Years from now when genealogists try to find me they'll find it difficult because I go by middle name and with this form I'm prevented from giving my full name. What a shame and frustration! Many have more than 3 names, but cannot give them all. Q7. Age on April 1, 2010; Month, Day, Year of birth Since age can be easily computed from date of birth, it is unnecessary to ask for age. Q9 What is the Person's race? There is really only one race and that's the human race. The choices for responses are: White, Black (African American or Negro), American Indian, Japanese, Native Hawaiian, Chinese, Korean, Guamarian (or Camorro), Filipino, Vietnamese, Samoan, Other Asian, Other Pacific Islander, or Some other race. These choices are for the most part not even races in the traditional, but archaic sense. They are ethnic groupings. A better question is "What is your country of birth?", which has been asked by many past censuses.

Important things that were not asked: Q. What is your highest level of education? How else can we tell if we are getting more educated over time or not? Q. What is your employment status? Seems like that would be helpful in determining overall employment needs or number of retirees in the country. Q. What is your first language?

Most of the examples at the end of the article are from data that cannot be ascertained from this 10 question census form.

matchbox81 8 years, 1 month ago

I can't believe some people's paranoid view of the census. It's used to help determine the geographical areas greatest need for government resources. It's also used by a wide variety of industries to help determine where to site a new headquarters/store/office, etc. People that don't fill out a census form are basically saying "I don't count", and as a result, their local fire department might get less grant money to buy a new truck than the fire department down the road.

classclown 8 years, 1 month ago

matchbox81 (anonymous) says…

I can't believe some people's paranoid view of the census. It's used to help determine the geographical areas greatest need for government resources.


Wrong. That's what back room deals in the halls of Congress and the White House are for.

steveguy 8 years, 1 month ago

Heard that a lot of people have gotten their census form. Have not gotten ours yet.

mariacarol29 8 years, 1 month ago

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