Thursday, April 25, 2013

Back to the Future: Retrospective Census Data

Often times data lays dormant for years, or in some cases decades, with little or no comprehensive review being undertaken to place current information in any historical context. One of the most sought after, but often underutilized, resources of such time series data is the U.S. Commerce Department’s decennial census.

The ability to readily create wide ranging reviews of the various components of the decennial census has been limited by (a) the questions included in the census itself, and (b) the ability to access and store such information in a manner that makes it readily assessable.With the advent of the American Communities Survey, the data is even more accessible, and accessible on an annual basis!

After the 2000 Census, the regional planning office did a retrospective report on census data for both Herkimer and Oneida Counties. To see each one in its entirety click here for Oneida County's report, or here for the Herkimer County version

These reports involved data from as long ago as the 1950 census, although much of it was limited to only going back as far as 1960 or 1970.  These limitations were due largely to the introduction of new concepts (such as poverty) or a change in the basic definitions and collection of data on an issue, such as race. Sometimes, issues were only able to be examined in a broad context, such as white versus non-white populations. But there were many topics in which the data did allow for direct comparison over several decades with little change in how the data was collected or coded.

Data was presented in five chapters dealing with the following issues – aging; families and family structures; income and poverty; race, ethnicity, and nativity; and workforce and education. Within each were a variety of subtopics and ancillary issues. In each chapter, a review of data from the Census 2000 was included and followed by a historical review of the last 50 years (or whatever level of historical context exists depending upon the topic). 

The office is in the process of revamping the report, adding in data from the Census 2010, as well as the 2010 American Communities Survey (ACS). While the process will take some time, it will be good to add the most recent "decennial based" data to continue this longitudinal look at our region and how it has changed.

The two tables below give a small example of the types of data that can be looked at. In this case there are separate graphics for Herkimer and Oneida Counties dealing with where residents of each county go to work, as well as how they travel to and from work. These graphics show you the percent of workers who lived in, and also worked in, each county for both the 1960 Census as well as the Three Year Estimates for the 2010 ACS. They also show the percentage that worked in NYS counties other than Herkimer or Oneida. This comparison is then followed by information showing the 1960 and 2010 comparisons for the mode of transportation to work of employees, including the percentages that drove a car, took public transportation, or walked to work. 

Hopefully more of such retrospective comparisons can be made as we look back to our future!

Click to Enlarge Herkimer County Data

Click to Enlarge Oneida County Data