Tag Archives: Census information

Access to Government Information that Matters

In my perennial quest to promote access to government information as a national priority I am beginning an assertive promotional effort to make government information as relevant as it is vital.  With this in mind I’m starting the most relevant of all federal government information provided as a public good by that most public of all public government agencies, the U.S. Census Bureau.

 

What every American needs to know about Super Bowl XLV.  Understand that if you digest this you will win the next bar Trivia contest and be one step ahead of the sagacious commentator who gets his or her data from precisely the same public trough:

Super Bowl XLV

Super Bowl XLV will be played Feb. 6 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, midway between Dallas and Fort Worth. To commemorate this occasion, the Census Bureau has compiled a collection of facts examining the demographics of the host city, as well as the cities represented by the contenders, in this year’s edition of our nation’s most celebrated sporting event.

Green Bay, Wis. (Packers)

Unless otherwise indicated, the data come from the 2009 American Community Survey.

268th

Where Green Bay, Wis., ranked on the list of the nation’s most populous cities. The estimated population of Green Bay on July 1, 2009, was 101,412. Green Bay gained 527 people from July 1, 2008, to July 1, 2009. Source: Population estimates <http://www.census.gov/popest/cities/SUB-EST2009.html>

19%

Percentage of Green Bay residents 25 and older who had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2009; 85 percent had at least graduated from high school. The respective national figures were 28 percent and 85 percent. The percentage in Green Bay who have graduated from high school did not differ significantly from the percentage for Arlington.

18 minutes

Average amount of time it took Green Bay residents to get to work. Seventy-eight percent of the city’s workers drove to work alone, 8 percent carpooled and 1 percent took public transportation. Nationally, it took workers an average of 25 minutes to get to work. The percentage of Green Bay workers who drove to work alone and the percentage taking public transportation were not statistically different from the respective percentages for Arlington. The percentage of Green Bay workers carpooling was not statistically different from the percentage for Pittsburgh.

14%

Percentage of Green Bay residents 5 and older who spoke a language other than English at home. The national average was 20 percent.
Source: 2007-2009 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

$40,857

Median household income for Green Bay. The national median was $50,221. The figure for Green Bay was not statistically different from that for Pittsburgh.

$129,800

Median home value of owner-occupied homes in Green Bay. The national median was $185,200. The figure for Green Bay did not differ statistically from that for Arlington.

Pittsburgh (Steelers)

Unless otherwise indicated, the data come from the 2009 American Community Survey.

61st

Where Pittsburgh ranked on the list of the nation’s most populous cities. The estimated population of Pittsburgh on July 1, 2009, was 311,647. Pittsburgh lost 472 people from July 1, 2008, to July 1, 2009.
Source: Population estimates <http://www.census.gov/popest/cities/SUB-EST2009.html>

33%

Percentage of Pittsburgh residents 25 and older who had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2009; 89 percent had at least graduated from high school. The respective national figures were 28 percent and 85 percent.

22 minutes

Average amount of time it took Pittsburgh residents to get to work. Fifty-four percent of the city’s workers drove to work alone, 10 percent carpooled and 19 percent took public transportation. Nationally, it took workers an average of 25 minutes to get to work. The percentage of Pittsburgh residents who carpooled did not differ statistically from the percentage for either Arlington or Green Bay.

10%

Percentage of Pittsburgh residents 5 and older who spoke a language other than English at home. The national average was 20 percent.

$37,461

Median household income for Pittsburgh. The national median was $50,221. The figure for Pittsburgh did not differ statistically from Green Bay.

$92,500

Median home value of owner-occupied homes in Pittsburgh. The national median was $185,200.

Arlington, Texas (host city)

Unless otherwise indicated, the data come from the 2009 American Community Survey.

49th

Where Arlington ranked on the list of the nation’s most populous cities. The estimated population of Arlington on July 1, 2009, was 380,085. Arlington gained 5,292 people from July 1, 2008, to July 1, 2009. Arlington is more populous than several cities with NFL franchises, including St. Louis, New Orleans, Tampa, Fla., Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Source: Population estimates <http://www.census.gov/popest/cities/SUB-EST2009.html>.

28%

Percentage of Arlington residents 25 and older who had a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2009; 83 percent had at least graduated from high school. The respective national figures were 28 percent and 85 percent. The percentage in Arlington who graduated from high school did not differ statistically from Green Bay.

26 minutes

Average amount of time it took Arlington residents to get to work, not statistically different from the national figure. Eighty-one percent of the city’s workers drove to work alone, 12 percent carpooled and less than 1 percent took public transportation. Nationally, it took workers an average of 25 minutes to get to work. The percentages in Arlington who drove to work alone and took public transportation did not differ statistically from the respective percentages for Green Bay. The percentage carpooling in Arlington did not differ statistically from that for Pittsburgh.

34%

Percentage of Arlington residents 5 and older who spoke a language other than English at home. The national average was 20 percent.

$50,938

Median household income for Arlington, not statistically different from the national median, which was $50,221.

$132,200

Median home value of owner-occupied homes in Arlington. The national median was $185,200. The figure for Arlington did not differ statistically from that for Green Bay

 

More than a whimper

 

 

Somewhere buried in the news of the day we will probably miss the fact that Tuesday, December 21, 2010 should mark a major blast in the ongoing saga of  Census 2010. The headlines, I predict, will focus almost exclusively on which states win/lose Congressional seats.  The Census-based reapportionment is a momentous outcome, of course.  Still, it is but one immediate and visible application of the massive data collected in the 2010 Census.  Though reapportionment means a lot to the politicos and the media and ultimately to the people  it is simply not sufficient to let that be the end of the discussion of what Census 2010 can and should mean in the lives of ordinary people.

 

A year ago we were inundated with grand information campaigns encouraging  participation in the Census.  It was great, almost heady, stuff!  Advocacy groups, nonprofits, churches, neighborhood organizations, education groups were getting together on the common cause to promote understanding and participation.  All in all, it was one of the most united, effective, positive initiatives I’ve ever witnessed.  I get excited remembering the energy and commitment that prevailed.

 

Then comes the whimper….I worried then and I’m more worried now about how that Census information will ultimately improve the lives of the millions of good people who took time, overcame fears, and shared information about themselves with the U.S. government.  We know that developers, government agencies, advertisers, planners know where the data are and how to use them.  That’s as it should be.  My concern is this:  If information is power, what are we doing to empower the people to put to good purpose that data that is theirs – ours.  What resources – money, time, energy, focus – will we commit to ensure that the information works for the people?

 

The surge to push for participation was generously funded by the government, eagerly taken on by a host of responsible organizations.  To some extent, the message was simple and straightforward:  Census 2010 is not a threat, it’s important, participate.

 

Now it gets complicated:  The challenge now is to learn how to use those numbers to shape and improve services, to allocate resources, to interpret needs and to identify solutions.  The process is neither glamorous nor fast-paced – it’s just essential.  We owe it to the people who listened and shared their time and information.  The government, state or federal, can do just so much.  It remains to those same groups who worked so hard last year  – the media, nonprofits, churches, advocacy groups, educators – to stay on duty.  That means following the Census data as it oozes out of the federal government.  It means learning new skills, taking serious time to locate, organize, interpret, apply and share the information and the skills of access.

 

Tuesday, December 21, ought to signal a major kickoff of the next phase of Census 2010.  We can’t expect that thrust – the energy or the resources – to emanate from the federal bureaucracy.  The commitment simply must come from the field where those who care about outcomes for real people.  Information power as a priority is unprecedented.  Those who believe in the power of an informed public to make good decisions need to shift gears to incorporate access to government information, including Census data, as a priority.  Access tools are in place or within reach.  The data are gathered, eager to gush forth on demand. My hope is that the next phase of Census 2010 will go forth not with a whimper but with a mighty bang.