Monday, April 28, 2014

Back to the Future2: The Release of the 2010 County Retrospectives

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 decennial census. In December of 2004, the Herkimer Oneida Counties Comprehensive Planning Program released a report on the last 50 years of census related data for both Herkimer and Oneida Counties.

The time has come for the re-release of this series, updated with data from 2010. Given changes to the decennial census, the data source for much of this comparison now comes from the American Communities Survey, or the ACS. The ACS is NOT the equivalent of the decennial census. It is a very different vehicle for data collection. However, to the degree possible, comparative data will be offered.

Such a review of data is, by the very nature of such time constrained data collection, and the introduction of a new source of data (the ACS), of fraught with pitfalls. Changing definitions, as well as the nature of the data collection process itself, often conspire to make many comparisons the equivalent of mixing apples with oranges. As the social constructs of race, poverty, aging, etc., all evolve to better, or perhaps at least different, levels of understanding over the years, the ability to make comparisons with past data becomes tricky, perhaps difficult, and even impossible at times.

These report will attempt to recognize those potential issues and bring them to light. They will involve data collected since the 1950 census through the 2012 ACS Five Year Estimates. In many cases, in terms of the historical sections of each chapter, the data may only extend back to 1960 or 1970 until the 2012 ACS. Much of that is due 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 are only able to be examined in a broad context, such as white versus non-white populations. But there are many topics in which the data does allow for direct comparison over several decades with little change in how the data was collected or coded.

Still, it is important to strongly urge that each of the data sets be examined in terms of the subtleties of the definitions for each topical issue. Efforts have been made to be sure to compare like items when possible, and to note potential problem areas. All of the included analysis provides at least a loose sketch of the immediate historical past, and, at best, a more thorough review of some of the changes being experienced within Oneida County over the last fifty to sixty years. 

These reports are not intended as an assessment of demographic trends in the last half of the 20th century in either county. Rather they are more of a simple review of what has occurred. While a plethora of other topics could have been included, few have enough historical context (i.e. data available) to make them readily reviewable. As a result, this report focuses on five topics: aging, families, income/poverty, nativity/race, and employment.

Expect to see these chapters released here in the next several weeks (one will be later today!). Oneida County's chapters will be released first and then Herkimer County's will follow.