Local Demographic Analysis:
Using Census Data to Understand
Changing Neighborhoods and People
Todd Blickenstaff
Hablamos Juntos
Scottsdale, AZ
January 8, 2003
Workshop Agenda
General Overview of Census
Understanding Census Geographic Categories
Demonstration of the American Factfinder website
Accessing the Data
Basic and Advanced Demographic Variables
Analyzing Your Results
Basic Information about Population, Race, Income, and
Tips on Presenting Data
What is the Census?
A census is an official count of the entire
population and housing units.
Done every ten years.
Implications for House of Representatives,
electoral college, and funding allocations.
Comprised of a short form and a long form.
Short Formhttp://www.census.gov/dmd/www/pdf/d61a.pdf
Counts population and very basic demographic
How Census treats Ethnicity vs. Race Ethnicity- #7, Hispanic Yes or No
Race- #8, subjective, social construction, shared
physical characteristics (White, Black, American
Indian, Asian, Pacific Islander, Other)
Age, sex, phone number, home ownership
Also called SF1 (Summary File), STF1, STF1A
To be asked of everyone in the US
Long Formhttp://www.census.gov/dmd/www/pdf/d02p.pdf
Includes everything in SF1 plus:
detailed economic, education, income, social,
transportation, workforce, ancestry, household
amenity, and housing information
Sent to one in six households in US
Also called SF3, STF3, STF3A
Most commonly used data set
How accurate are Census data?
SF1 sent to 83% of housing units
SF3 sent to 17% of housing units
Together they form a “complete count” reflected in SF1
National response rate was 67% (up from 65% in 1990)
Higher response rate than 1990
forms translated into 5 languages
marketing campaign
Sub-populations such as homeless, children, ESL,
communities of color are undercounted at higher rates
than the general population.
Bureau estimates it missed 1.2% of population (about
3.3 million people)
1.1 million children
20% of child undercount was Hispanic
72,000 Hispanic children were missed in CA, 42,000 in TX
Each person not counted represents a loss of about
$3000 in state and federal funds- (housing, community
and economic development, transportation, job training,
low income home energy assistance, Medicaid, foster
Levels of Census Geography
Regional- (e.g. Pacific, Statewide,
Metropolitan Statistical Area MSA)
Local- (e.g. County, Zip Code, Census
Tract, Block Group)
Most Commonly Used
Census Geographic Categories
Zip code- defined by US Postal Service, based on density,
service patterns, how much mail can be delivered, not updated
regularly, use with caution
Census Designated Place (CDP)- closely settled, named,
unincorporated communities (Kerr, MT pop. 17)
County- As defined by government
Census Tract- 2500 to 9000 people (usually 4000), tracts are
good unit to use, 4 digits, 2 digit suffix (3508.01)
Block Group- about 1000 people, groups of blocks with the
same first digit
Census Block- bound by physical elements like streets,
railroad tracks, highways, ditches, or rivers; 4 digits
Factfinder- Enter a Street Address to determine census tract,
block group, etc. http://factfinder.census.gov
Block 4002- Pomona, CA 2000
Block Group 4- Pomona, CA 2000
Census Tract 4026, Pomona, CA 2000
Most Commonly Used
Census Geographic Categories
Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)
Defined by Census as an urbanized area/city with
50,000+ inhabitants and a total metropolitan
population of 100,000+.
The geographic area of an MSA is usually defined
in terms of counties.
Lansing-East Lansing MSA consists of Clinton, Eaton,
and Ingham Counties
Green Bay MSA is defined as Brown County.
Most Commonly Used Census Geography
Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area
(CMSA)- consists of 2 or more adjoining MSA’s
having a combined population of 1 million or more.
e.g. Baltimore-Washington, DFW, LA-OrangeRiverside, Detroit-Ann Arbor-Flint
Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area (PMSA)When combined into a CMSA, each component
metropolitan area is referred to as a PMSA. For
example, the Dallas-Forth Worth CMSA consists of the
Dallas PMSA and the Fort Worth PMSA. BostonWorcester-Lawrence CMSA consists of 10 PMSA’s
Income Data
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments
Free and reduced lunch recipients
Food stamp recipients
Received any public assistance
Percent of median income
30% extremely low, 50% very/moderately low, 80%
Poverty- 2001, $18,267 for a family of four, not
adjusted regionally
Available by single year and groupings
Age groups are fixed in age
5 year olds
School-aged kids (5-17)
Seniors (64 years and older)
Cohorts have fixed membership by birth year
Baby Boomers- 1946-64
Generation X- 1965-75
Generation Y- 1976-82
Generation I- 1983-2002
Housing Units
Tenure- own or rent
Overcrowding- rooms in unit/people per unit
Price of house
Duration of occupancy
Go to www.census.gov
Click on American FactFinder
Select a Data Set
Select Summary File 1 and click
on Detailed Tables
Select MSA under Geographic type
using the pull down menu, then
select Phoenix-Mesa, AZ MSA
Use subject or keyword to locate tables
Use subject or keyword to locate tables
-Select Total Population
-Click Add,
-Click Show Table
The Art of Presenting Data
Your exhibit should “click” within 10 seconds or
else most readers won’t bother to figure it out.
Decide what type of graphic best fits your data
Table- 20 or fewer numbers
Graph- more than 20 numbers
• Avoid “grid prison”– too many vertical lines
Often good to round (29% instead of 28.76%)
Use ratios and indexes to save readers work
Unemployment rate is 15% instead of “Out of 200
people, 30 are unemployed”
The Art of Presenting Data
Focus attention on comparisons
Between populations (Latino vs. Asian)
Over time (1990 vs. 2000)
Avoid too much textual explanation

Local Demographic Analysis: Using the Census to …