Monday, May 9, 2011

Oneida County Census Tract Maps

With the release of the 2010 decennial census data also comes the release of the new census geography for our region. Every ten years when the Census is conducted, local geography is reviewed and changes are submitted for consideration of new census tracts and block groups.

Census tracts are small, relatively permanent statistical subdivisions of a county. Census tracts usually have between 1,200 and 8,000 persons and 480 to 1,600 households. When first created, tracts are designed to be homogeneous with respect to population characteristics, economic status, and living conditions. Census tracts do not cross county boundaries. The spatial size of census tracts varies widely depending on the density of settlement. Census tract boundaries are delineated with the intention of being maintained over a long time so that statistical comparisons can be made from census to census. However, physical changes in street patterns caused by highway construction, new development, etc., may require occasional revisions; census tracts occasionally are split due to large population growth, or combined as a result of substantial population decline.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Dr. Walter Laidlaw originated the concept of permanent, small geographic areas as a framework for studying change from one decennial census to another in neighborhoods within New York City in 1906. For the 1910 Census, eight cities—New York, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis—delineated census tracts (then termed ‘‘districts’’) for the first time. No additional jurisdictions delineated census tracts until just prior to the 1930 Census, when an additional ten cities chose to do so.

The 1920 census data were also tabulated by tract for these cities, and Dr. Laidlaw published the figures for New York. Others followed: Chicago and Cleveland purchased and published their census tract data. By the end of the decade, 18 cities (the same eight from 1910, along with Los Angeles, Columbus, Nashville, Berkeley, Syracuse, and Yonkers) were reviewing or delineating census tracts for the 1930 census.

After 1930, the Census Bureau saw the need to standardize the delineation, review, and updating of census tracts and published the first set of census tract criteria in 1934. The goal of the criteria has remained unchanged; that is, to assure comparability and data reliability through the standardization of the population thresholds for census tracts, as well as requiring that their boundaries follow specific types of geographic features that do not change frequently.

For the 1940 census, the Census Bureau adopted the census tract as an official geographic entity to be included in data tables of the standard publications of the decennial census.  Starting with the 1960 Census, the Census Bureau assumed a greater role in promoting and coordinating the delineation, review, and update of census tracts. Census 2000 was the first decade in which census tracts were defined in all counties and the 2010 Census marks the 100th anniversary of census tracts.

Knowing where these tracts are helps policymakers, business leaders and the public plan for our future. Below are three maps, one for the Oneida County as a whole, and then two separate maps, one each for Utica and Rome, showing the tract level geography that will be in place for the next 10 years.

Utica Area Tracts (2010)

Rome Area Tracts (2010)
Oneida County Tracts (2010)