APPENDIX
E

State and Local Needs for Census Data

As part of its study of census data needs, the panel undertook a survey of state data centers to determine their requirements for data content, the priority of key features of census data, and comments on alternative census designs. Our survey consisted of requests for:

  • documents or summaries of specific examples of how census data are used;

  • descriptions of innovative uses of census materials, especially the use of small-area data (census tracts, blocks, or aggregates of blocks);

  • information on programs that rely on census data and demonstrate the critical role of census data for major public programs and policies;

  • a list and brief explanation of essential data;

  • comments on five components of alternative census designs (geographic detail; timeliness of data; content; accuracy of data; and a geographic referencing system, e.g., TIGER); and

  • comments on four classes of alternative census designs (current design, census with intercensal surveys, expanded use of administrative records, and a minimal census with cumulated surveys).

This appendix is based on a background paper prepared for the panel by Michele Conrad entitled "State and Local Needs for Census Data: A Survey of State Data Centers."



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census APPENDIX E State and Local Needs for Census Data As part of its study of census data needs, the panel undertook a survey of state data centers to determine their requirements for data content, the priority of key features of census data, and comments on alternative census designs. Our survey consisted of requests for: documents or summaries of specific examples of how census data are used; descriptions of innovative uses of census materials, especially the use of small-area data (census tracts, blocks, or aggregates of blocks); information on programs that rely on census data and demonstrate the critical role of census data for major public programs and policies; a list and brief explanation of essential data; comments on five components of alternative census designs (geographic detail; timeliness of data; content; accuracy of data; and a geographic referencing system, e.g., TIGER); and comments on four classes of alternative census designs (current design, census with intercensal surveys, expanded use of administrative records, and a minimal census with cumulated surveys). This appendix is based on a background paper prepared for the panel by Michele Conrad entitled "State and Local Needs for Census Data: A Survey of State Data Centers."

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census State data centers serve as clearinghouses for census data in their states and responded to our survey on the state's needs for data, as well as the needs of county and city governments, businesses, and other data center affiliates (non-profit associations, etc). We report on responses provided by 18 states: Alabama, Alaska, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. In focusing on state and local needs for census data, first the general census data categories (general demographic, race and ethnicity, immigration, labor force and occupation, education, disability, transportation, income and poverty, and housing) and their uses are discussed. This is followed by a discussion of specific uses of census data; uses of data for meeting state and federal legislative requirements, preparing state and federal grants applications, public health and social service programs, community planning and development, environmental uses, and economic uses are discussed. Next, the appendix addresses the level of geographic detail needed by states and local jurisdictions for performing their work. Finally, general conclusions regarding the needs reported by state data centers are presented. USES OF CENSUS DATA: AN OVERVIEW Small-area census data are essential to state and local governmental agencies for descriptive analyses, assessments, and planning related to public-policy decision making, including the day-to-day decision-making process. Those purposes include, but are not limited to: meeting state and federal legislative requirements, allocating funds for social service programs and assessing the need and effects of public health and social service programs, community planning and development, environmental monitoring, and economic analyses. Census data are used to describe neighborhoods, which helps private and public agencies understand their community's needs and target program and policy efforts effectively. The actual data items used to meet the policy objectives of the states and local communities are varied, but data at the county, municipal, tract, census block group, and census block levels are frequently used to inform the decision-making process and achieve public-policy goals of the state and local governments and community groups. Based on the survey responses, it is apparent that census data are important for being able to accurately describe the demographic diversity within a county or city for understanding the society and the ability to make government more effective. More important, however, is that the census is the only reliable source of accurate small-area data available to them. Census data are used for everything from selecting a site for a major power plant or community day-care center to planning the construction of a new road or bridge to distributing federal funds. State and local governments use census data to prepare analyses related to population trends; community and economic development

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census plans; long-range plans and recommendations for land-use transportation, community facilities, public utilities, recreation, housing, and other community improvements and developments; grant applications for federal-and state-funded projects; designation of enterprise zones; reapportionment and redistricting, library service area designations, and population aggregations. With all of these uses of census data, it is easy to imagine a great demand for census data products. One data center reported that the demand for census data has grown dramatically—in 1983, that center received fewer than 1,000 inquiries for census data; in 1993, it received over 8,000 inquiries. School districts, university students, housing authorities, the farm programs, consultants for sewer and water districts, grant applicants, state tax assessors, utility companies, soil conservation services, grocery store chains, hospitals and health clinics, various state and local government agencies, municipalities, housing developers, newspaper reporters, accountants, the United Way, media consultants, banks, transportation agencies, libraries, and other types of businesses and industries are among the users of census data. The data requested range from population estimates to economic data to types of employment. Specific examples of uses are: the use of statistics on the total number of households, including the number of households below the poverty level, by a housing development corporation to gain support for a housing rehabilitation project that would provide affordable rental housing; the use of educational attainment data and age cohort statistics used in planning an adult basic education program; the use of tract-level data to create maps showing concentrations of immigrant populations, as well as maps showing housing units using public and private sewerage and water systems; the use of zip code data to prepare profiles of age, race, sex, income, education, occupation, and type of employment by zip code area; the use of census block-level data from summary tapes, aggregated to user-defined areas, to prepare a demographic profile of city communities and neighborhoods; the use of census data to create maps showing an area's population change from 1970 to 1990; and the use of census data to create census tract maps showing the change in household income from 1970 to 1990. The survey of state data centers asked for state and local requirements, based on the overall experiences with thousands of requests for census data, for general data categories. The survey grouped census data into nine categories: general demographic data, race and ethnicity, immigration, labor force and occupation, education, disability, transportation, income and poverty, and housing.

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census Summarizing, first of all, the general replies from all state data centers, Table E.1 shows the priority or importance the data centers place on the various categories of census data. (It should be noted that not all survey respondents provided a ranking for every data item.) The variation among items reported as being essential by some data centers and eligible for elimination by others suggests that states often have very different uses and needs for data. Several respondents noted, in fact, that every data item on the 1990 census has a constituency, and that eliminating any item would be a problem for at least some community of users. CENSUS DATA CATEGORIES As noted above, the first part of our survey asked for information on the uses made of various categories and specific items from the census questionnaire. The broad categories are: general demographic, race and ethnicity, immigration, labor force and occupation, education, disability, transportation, income and poverty, and housing. General Demographic Data General demographic data, as defined by our survey, includes: population items (including residence, age, race, and sex), household relationship, migration and place of birth, fertility and marital history. These data are used to describe the way U.S. citizens live and are frequently combined with noncensus data for rate calculations. Each category is discussed in turn. Population by age, race, and sex is essential at the block level and is the backbone for demographic analyses and establishment of incidence rates. The data are used for many federal reports and grants, research, area profiles, land-use planning, labor-force estimates based on residence (in cooperation with the Bureau of Labor Statistics), determination of voting-age populations, school facility planning, and licensing. Household relationship helps to identify high-risk areas, such as those areas with high concentrations of single, female-headed families, high unemployment, and high drop-out rates; federal reports and grants; research; area profiles; planning and evaluation purposes; household projections; and determining and targeting areas where social services are needed. Migration is crucial for understanding migration from state to state and within states, as well as for understanding who is moving. Data on migration are also used for population estimates, federal reports and grants, and research. For states such as Alaska, where heavy annual migration in and out of the state fluctuates by season, the movement of people between states and counties between decennial censuses is tracked using the change of address information on IRS tax returns.

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census Although a number of respondents indicated that place of birth is not crucial, they did indicate that it is a useful item. According to one of the date centers, place of birth is the only migration measure available for subcounty geographic levels. Responses to the use of fertility data were inconsistent. Several data centers noted that the data were essential; others noted that they were important or useful, but not necessary. Those in the former category noted that fertility data are important because the census is the only source of that data for subcounty geographic levels. They are also used and necessary for various federal reports and grants, research, area profiles, and population projections. A few data centers, however, indicated that state vital statistics units sometimes provide better and more current information than the census. Several states noted that marital history data are essential or important and used for federal reports and grants, research, and area profiles, with some reporting that the census is the only source of marital history information at subcounty geographic levels. A few data centers noted that they are not frequently used or not essential. One data center reported that state vital statistics provide better and more current information than the census. Race, Hispanic Origin, and Ancestry The data centers reported almost unanimously that race is an essential data item. Most of the centers cited the need for the data for reapportionment and redistricting purposes, as well as for compliance with and enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. Race data are also essential for grants applications; housing, social service, and community planning; affirmative action compliance assessments, as well as for education, health care, and employment services. A way of addressing multiple racial background in the census was advocated. Most of the data centers reported that Hispanic origin item is essential. Hispanic status is used for reapportionment and redistricting and for meeting Voting Rights Act requirements. The data are also used for state and local planning and evaluation. Because of the steady growth of the Hispanic population, a number of states have a greater need than in previous years for information so that the Hispanic population can be better served. The responses on the ancestry item covered a wide range: essential, not crucial, used very little, eliminate. Data centers that found it essential or important noted the item's cultural significance and use for urban analyses at the tract and block-group levels. Ancestry data are used in some states to obtain information on people of multiple racial backgrounds. Immigration: Citizenship, Year of Entry, and Language Citizenship data are used to develop plans for immigrant and refugee services

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census and for distributing state funds. Year of entry data were reported by a majority of data centers as being used by government demographers and others, but otherwise not essential or frequently used or requested. One data center, however, reported that year of entry data are essential because foreign immigration is becoming the largest component of growth in its area, as well as in many other areas. Language data are used to determine areas where information should be distributed in a language other than English or where language assistance might be needed. It was reported that there are few or no sources other than the census that will yield language data at low levels of geography. Labor Force and Occupation Data categories included under labor force and occupation in our survey are employment status, work and employment in prior year, and veteran status. Data on employment status are used widely as an economic tool for labor-force and employment projections and affirmative action plans. Employment data may also be linked to income and poverty data for various types of analyses. These data are used to assess the effects of structural changes in economies (e.g., the closing of a sugar plantation in Hawaii), as well as to assess the economic potential of an area for potential new industries. According to our respondents, the most frequent use of veteran status data is for health and program analysis for the veteran population. Education: School Enrollment and Highest Grade Completed School enrollment data are a widely used indicator and in some states are used as a measure of accountability for the education system. For example, Hawaii creates social and economic profiles for school areas that are used in planning processes. Enrollment data are used for labor-force and other economic analyses and may be used to compare age data with local school censuses and projections. The Alaska State Data Center noted that enrollment data are available from the state Department of Education. Data on education levels are used by the departments of education and educational leaders to measure programmatic impact, and many communities use the data to attract industry. It is critical to many states is assessing the type of work force in an area, for economic analyses of areas, and for economic development profiles. Some states routinely tie educational attainment to occupation and income characteristics and find the data very important when broken out by race. Finally, the data are used by some jurisdictions in gauging improvement.

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census Disability Although many of the data centers indicated that disability is an essential census item, and some said that increased data collection is needed, not all state data centers reported that it is essential. Those that found it to be a high priority item cited the data's use by social service and public works agencies for grants and social service grants applications and planning (including transportation planning), as well as its use for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Respondents who did not find the item essential indicated that the data are not widely used because the disabled population is well-documented with noncensus sources. Transportation Transportation data are used for assessing commuting patterns, locating new roads, and transportation planning. Commuting pattern information is used as an economic tool. For instance, commuting data from the 1990 census helped to show a growing economic link between the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. areas. Transportation data needs and uses are discussed in Appendix G. Income and Poverty Based on survey responses, the income and poverty data are, for many areas, the most important data gleaned from the census. Income and poverty data are used extensively for every planning and analysis that can be imagined. The data are used by the private sector for, among other things, targeting customers, and by the public sector for, among other things, determining areas with low to moderate income households for providing services. The data are used, obviously, for area economic profiles, but also for grants, housing applications, housing analyses, establishing job training service areas and programs. The data are also vital indicators of an area's current economic status. Housing Respondents reported that housing data are useful in looking at housing demand, for housing applications, analyses of housing conditions and development plans, area profiles, etc. Data on septic and sewered systems are essential for some areas in developing sewer service area plans. The data area also essential for land-use plans and community development block-grant programs. Uses and needs for housing data are discussed in Appendix H.

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census USES OF CENSUS DATA Uses of Census Data for State and Federal Legislative Requirements In an effort to meet state and federal legislative requirements, small-area census data are often used to assess compliance with laws. The Minnesota state data center also noted that many state statutes rely on small-area income, poverty, and housing census data for the distribution of funds. One of the most frequently mentioned uses of census data was the use of block-level data to meet federal reapportionment and redistricting deadlines. (Appendix C discusses reapportionment and redistricting in detail). For example, in California, census data are used for reapportionment of state senate and assembly districts, county supervisorial districts, school districts, and city council districts. Montana uses sample items at the block and block-group level for redistricting. Many other federal laws, however, require the use of census data. For instance, the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG), as mandated by the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974; the comprehensive housing affordability strategies (CHAS); the CHAS Anti-Poverty Plan; the National Affordable Housing Act of 1990; and the Housing and Community Development Act (HCDA) of 1992 all require census data at the census tract and block levels. The census data are necessary for local jurisdictions to prove eligibility for funding and for implementation of the programs, e.g., identification of areas where a project or service can be developed and provided. The census data are used to identify areas of poverty concentration, minority concentration, overcrowding, and substandard housing. Without the data described above, it would be impossible to comply with the application submission requirements of the programs, and the programs could not be implemented as mandated by Congress. Finally, without the data, many needy areas would not be able to prove eligibility for funds. Some examples of uses that are legislatively mandated follow. Small-area transportation data items, such as mode of transportation to work and vehicle occupancy are used by transportation and environmental agencies to assess environmental impacts related to federal guidelines or mandates, including requirements of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. The Illinois Department of Public Health cited the use of block-and tract-level data for health assessment studies related to toxic waste clean-up of Super Fund sites on the national priority list—a federally mandated program. The demographic and housing characteristics near Super Fund sites are analyzed using census data. Title I of the National Affordable Housing Act of 1990 requires that

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census local, county, and state governments submit a housing assistance strategy program in order to receive federal funding. Census data are required to identify areas of poverty and minority concentration, overcrowding, and substandard housing. In addition to the federal requirements listed above, many state laws require the use of census data for program purposes. California Government Code 65302(b) requires local traffic circulation documentation to make an assessment of the needs of those who depend on public transportation (low income, elderly, and disabled). In Minnesota, the Mobile Health Clinic, which travels in and around poverty stricken areas of the state providing services, is required by legislation. Also in Minnesota, the home visiting program, which works to prevent child abuse and neglect, is required by Minnesota statutes. Uses of Census Data for State and Federal Grants Applications Census data are a necessary input for many federal and state grants applications. The Community Development Block Grant program is an example of census data used for completing and certifying grants applications. In California, census data are required for most grant applications for county, city, and small community programs. In addition to the Community Development Block Grant, the Urban County Grant Fund, also administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), requires census data for the grant application (Title I of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974). CDBG housing and other grant applications are prepared using census data on population, number of households, income, vacant housing units (number of), occupied housing units (number of), seasonal housing units (number of), owners (number of), renters (number of), median value of owner-occupied housing, median contract rent, renter vacancy rate, homeowner vacancy rate, female head of households, minorities, median age, population over age 65, and housing units constructed before 1940. The information for the applications is needed by county, city, village, township, census tract, and in some cases block groups. Census data are also needed to complete Comprehensive Housing Assistance Plans and to prepare annual reports. Uses of Census Data for Public Health and Social Service Programs Federally funded social service and human resource agencies that provide services to low-income and minority populations often require census data at tract or other levels to determine eligibility for program participation. Census data are used to identify areas needing programs and funding for programs that

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census offer counseling, child care information, referral services, and drug and alcohol education. In some cases, state laws require the distribution of state resources on a per capita basis based on census data (in particular, population and poverty data). The Illinois Department of Public Health reported using census data daily for vital statistics and planning purposes. The ability to measure aspects of a community's health is very important. A clear picture of community health status is needed to focus resources where they are needed most. Data are required for prevention program policy, planning, and evaluation processes, and for certain reporting requirements for state and federal agencies (such as disease counts and rates). The data most needed are age, sex, race/ethnicity by census tract and over time (preferably yearly). Data that are very helpful, but not critical are poverty status, households, persons/household, housing units, housing units/acre, persons/acre, educational attainment, place of birth, and household income. Without census data, many public health and social service agencies would not be able to meet their responsibilities and, in the long run, the public's health could suffer. Census data are used to help state departments and agencies for child welfare predict trends in child abuse, foster care, socioeconomic needs, number of children in foster care and/or receiving social services, cost of services in the future, and household composition. At least one state's laws mandate the use of census data to formulate rationale for child care funding priorities. Census data are frequently used by child care service programs to identify, by race/ethnicity and income, areas where there are children with parents in the work force; child care subsidies are made based on those data. Census data also help county mental health agencies provide specific, mandated levels of service to children and help them plan for the services and apply for funding for those services. In one example of data used for public health and social service programs provided to the panel, census data were used by a state public health official to order flu vaccine. The official was planning to order far too much vaccine, and the census data enabled him to see that ordering less would be adequate. Identifying the need and eligibility for Head Start programs, which are mandated to serve families with the greatest need, is an important use of census data. The data are used to certify eligibility for federal and state funding of the Head Start program and to target areas where the program is needed. An innovative use of census data is being made by the Asian American Health Forum. The forum is attempting to link census tract data with health data from Hawaii's Health Surveillance Program. Census tract is used as the common variable. The ability to link the data in this way will enable socioeconomic data to be related to health issues for areas in the state, enabling the populations most at risk and in need of services to be served more effectively. Geographic coding of welfare recipients to help create a better understanding of welfare dependency can be attained through the use of census data. Coding welfare recipients geographically allows welfare data to be correlated with

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census census data at the census tract level. In turn, cross-sectional statistical analysis can be performed and profiles of welfare recipients can be developed. Those analyses and profiles can help target populations for programs designed to move them to self-sufficiency. According to one of the respondents, census data are the only statistically reliable means of determining dependency rates for populations most at risk of welfare dependency. Uses of Census Data for Community Planning and Development Many community planning efforts require small-area census data to help determine, implement, and follow up on courses of action. Data required by most planning projects include population, age, race, income, employment, and housing. Federal Environmental Protection Agency mandates require many local governments to upgrade or replace water systems, sewage systems, and solid waste facilities. The funds for those projects are obtained through grants from the Farmers Home Administration, Community Development Block Grants, and, in some cases, state endowment programs. Census data are required for all of the grants applications and for administration of the programs mentioned above. In addition, HUD's new HOME program requires census data for grant applications and program administration. In order to qualify recipients, many federal programs require either census information or independent surveys that will provide the necessary qualifying data. As discussed above, recipients of Community Development Block Grants must have a certain percent of low-to-moderate income households. Municipalities or special purpose districts (fire or sewer districts) may apply for CDBG grants; however, because special purpose districts sometimes cross municipal lines, tract-or block-group data must be used for their grant applications. Since the grants may be used to develop infrastructure, data at smaller levels of geography are crucial for economic development. In one state, tract-level data are used to study characteristics of community areas, which are aggregates of census tracts. Those community areas can divide, for instance, a large city, into a number of geographic units. Census data aggregated to the community-area level are used extensively to create local community fact books, for health studies, for vital statistics analyses, and for all types of planning. Also, census data are the only source of comprehensive and consistent historical data, which are important in tracking changes in an area and in documenting urban decay. Historical and comparative research on areas that once thrived and are now in economic and physical decay helps pinpoint factors that contribute to the phenomenon of urban decay. The following are some examples of data used for community planning and development purposes. Census data at the city-wide level are used for preparing and updating general plans, e.g., land use and housing elements and for infrastructure planning.

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census If census data were not available, the state would incur significant costs in developing, standardizing, and enforcing data collection and reporting criteria. In addition, cities would incur tremendous costs to collect their own data. The census provides data on social, structural, labor-force, and economic change to planning agencies. Those data are used for planning roads, water and sewage systems (including wastewater treatment systems), and landfill and waste systems; evaluating public services and facilities; economic development and redevelopment projects; traffic analysis and hazardous material transportation; budget forecasting and fiscal planning; and developing social programs for the elderly, disabled, low-income, and foreign born. A brief description of data uses for school districts, law enforcement, library services, and emergency planning follows. School Districts Some state codes require that school districts calculate the average the number of students in poverty and the number of school-age children in families receiving AFDC based on census data. School districts also use census data to develop demographic profiles of the students and community to better understand their educational needs, which in turn helps them plan facilities for K-12 schools. In Minnesota, for example, school districts rely on the census for many needs: child poverty assessments and analyses, enrollment-based facilities planning, and distributing school funding. Because school districts do not correlate to any other established geographic boundary, it is necessary to aggregate data from the smallest available census area to create an accurate picture of the school district's demographic characteristics. Those demographic profiles of the school districts help the educational planners and administrators determine the need for bilingual instruction programs and other special services that may be warranted in the schools. Law Enforcement Law enforcement training programs in some states are developed using census data. Trends and events that may impact the future of law enforcement and local communities are assessed using census data. Census data are used by city police departments for program design, workload distribution forecasting, patrol design, and analysis of crime and demographic data. In one instance, a state court system was able to discern that the crime-prone age group (16-26 years old) would be expanding. Census data also help to predict and analyze crime trends and statistics to help in investigations. The San Diego County Automated Regional Justice Information System is one system that uses census data for those purposes. The San Diego City Police

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census Department has a computerized dispatch system that relies on census tract-and block-level data that are linked to police officers' patrols. A geographic file assigns a tract and block number to calls coming into the system. Patrol officers on the beat are assigned to investigate the call. Library Services Libraries use data for their grant applications (required by the Library Services and Construction Act). They also assist users who cannot afford to purchase census data. In addition, census data are used to analyze library service areas (census tract aggregations) to determine the type of services, materials, and programs that should be offered. Emergency Planning General demographic, housing, social, and economic information is especially important for areas where natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions) occur. In those instances, data are needed quickly so that emergency services can be implemented and the impact of the disaster can be assessed. For example, California uses census data to develop earthquake hazard assessments. Those assessments evaluate the potential damage and population affected by a given level of an earthquake centered in a given area, as well as the cost of actual damage and displacement. In addition, data on employment by work zone are used to estimate the daytime population in the event of a major catastrophe. Necessary treatment, services, and evacuation plans are based on daytime population in many larger cities. This was true for Hawaii during and after Hurricane Iniki, Florida after Hurricane Andrew, and California after the 1994 earthquake. Uses of Census Data for Environmental Planning Census data, particularly block-group and block-level data, are used to create land-use and land-cover maps, land-use projections, and socioeconomic profiles and projections (including sustainable growth analyses for areas) that affect the environment. This was done, for example, in Maryland for the governor's Chesapeake Bay Work Group Tributary Watershed Strategy. In California, the Air Quality Management Plan requires preparation of an air-quality element that identifies and analyzes population trends, commuting patterns, and land-use characteristics and their effect on the environment. In Minnesota, the Environmental Quality Board released an in-depth study of sustainable growth based on evaluation and mapping of census items at the block-group level. In addition to the uses described above, census data are used also to identify and describe population segments exposed to environmental hazards, such as

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census studies of populations living in close proximity to hazardous waste sites (i.e., Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania). Economic Uses of Census Data: Employment, Labor Force, and Economic Development Analyses Designation of enterprise zones, affirmative action compliance, employment and labor-force analyses, and analyses of local economies are among the economic uses made of census data. Census data on occupation and labor force are used to analyze regional economic growth, as well as plans for future development. Census data are used to target state and federally funded job training programs to areas where those services are needed. For those purposes, according to survey respondents, census labor-force and employment/unemployment data are the only reliable indicators of joblessness at the small-area level. In Oklahoma, for example, income data at the block-group level are used to certify state enterprise zones for tax incentives—a legislatively mandated use. Income, poverty, and other socioeconomic characteristics are crucial at least at the census tract level for those areas. The California enterprise zones program identifies economically depressed areas and offers state incentives designed to encourage business investment and the creation of jobs. Another legislated California program, the Target Area Contract Preference Act, is designed to encourage and facilitate job maintenance and job development in areas that are identified and qualify as economically distressed and declining areas. Also, in New York, poverty and employment data are used to test the eligibility for the smallest places at the tract level for the Economic Development Zone Program. In some states, small-area labor-force, employment, and occupation data are used to analyze local economies, including creating employment projections. One state prepared a report, based on 1990 census state-and county-level data, that analyzed occupational categories of the civilian labor force by sex and race. In Alaska, monthly labor-force estimates are allocated to county-equivalent level; those estimates are prepared using census data. The data, which are used to adjust more current employment estimates from monthly samples to a residence basis, provide the correlations necessary to estimate the category of self-employed, unpaid family, and private household work employment. Census employment data are also used in Alaska to project patterns of occupational separations due to death and retirement. For those projections, worker occupations are cross-tabulated by age. Detailed data on occupation by race and sex (which are available only from the census and only at the county and state levels) are used heavily by existing and potential employers to meet federal equal employment requirements or to identify the composition of the labor force of an area. Data on education, income, labor force, occupation, race and ethnicity, and sex are used for affirmative action purposes. For example, California's Office of Federal Contract Compliance

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census Programs mandates the use of census data to establish labor market availability; and an affirmative action plan, including the use of census data, is required by the Eight Factor Analysis (Chapter 60-2.11, b). In addition, Executive Order 11246 of the U.S. Civil Rights Act mandates the use of census data to develop affirmative action plans. In Hawaii, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Hawaiian, and Japanese race categories are used for affirmative action compliance analyses. In preparing economic analyses and grant applications for counties and communities in Wisconsin, data on the farm and nonfarm populations, median age, educational attainment, minority population, employment categories, occupational data, income and poverty data, race, population by age and by sex, and place of work are utilized. An important use of census data is to aid in assessing the potential impact of an economic disruption, such as the closing of a large automobile manufacturer or a military base, on an area. The Economic Development Division of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs seeks to identify economic needs, investigate and develop business programs, and advocate legislation that supports economic development and financial assistance for Native Hawaiian businesses. It also attempts to develop strategies for identifying barriers that prevent equal access to employment and works to develop ways of improving job skills and increasing the employability of Native Hawaiians. Census data provide the basic statistical data on income, poverty, education, employment, industry, and occupation data that are required for the division's work. SMALL-AREA DATA NEEDS FOR GEOGRAPHICALLY DETAILED DATA Small-area data are used to allocate funds and provide assistance in needy areas. Without the data, it would be difficult to understand differences between various racial/ethnic groups, to describe the demographic diversity in a city or county, and consequently to understand society. A detailed census, according to state data centers, is the only way to measure the basic characteristics of the population. It can help document society's problems, a necessary step to being able to solve them. Although a large state survey may be able to provide the necessary data, those surveys would take time and money to develop and implement. Evidence of the need for small-area data is that villages with as few as 1,000 residents must respond to the same environmental, development, and other concerns as large cities and counties. Those reporting requirements of smaller areas demand the same level of economic and demographic data as large cities and counties. The North-Central Alabama Regional Council of Governments cited a need for more geographic detail for small rural areas with less than 200 population. One sentiment echoed by most of the data centers is that the decennial

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census census provides the only comprehensive socioeconomic database with reliable data down to the block level. Data at the tract, block group, block, and place levels allow state and local governments to describe neighborhoods and are crucial to the governments' ability to conduct analyses and to make decisions about planning, program funding, and community development. State, county, place, tract, and zip code data are most frequently requested by users (including businesses, governmental units, and nonprofit organizations). Data for tracts and small minor civil divisions (less than 2,500 population) are frequently requested from the Wisconsin state data center, but there are few requests for block and block-group data. One of the data centers stated that the requested census data are primarily at the tract, block group, and block levels. In some cases, however, particularly in rural areas, detailed zip codes and minor civil divisions were reported as being sufficient. According to the data centers, geography must be as small as possible to do proper and accurate microanalyses; in most cases, geography larger than a census tract is useless. One data center suggested that there may be a need for a new geographic division between the tract and block levels and the elimination of the block level because it is used less. It was also noted by a data center that the need for small-area data will only remain important if the data are accurate. According to the data centers, all 1990 content is essential at the tract/block numbering area level and above. Income, poverty, and socioeconomic characteristics were reported separately as being crucial at least at the tract level. Areas with highly diverse populations have an especially great need for census data at the tract level so that areas with special needs can be identified and served. Although it was reported that income, poverty, and other socioeconomic characteristics are essential at the tract level, some data centers indicated that those data are also important to have at the block-group level. It was also reported that all or almost all 1990 sample data are essential at the block-group level. Some sample items are not as crucial to have at the block-group level; among those items are place of birth, ancestry, veteran status, citizenship, year of entry, condominium status, and number of bedrooms. As reported by the Maryland Office of Planning and the North Carolina Office of State Planning, complete count (short form or 100 percent) data items are valuable and necessary at the block level, if only for the purpose of aggregating the data to user-defined, nonstandard areas (neighborhoods, legislative districts, market areas, school districts, fire and other emergency districts, etc.) and areas smaller than census tracts. It was noted that expanded use of user-defined areas might address small area needs for sample data. The Minnesota state planning agency reported that housing information, used to create state population and household estimates, is needed at the block level. Because data at geographic areas larger than the block level can cross jurisdictional boundaries, those levels of geography are unusable for developing population and household

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census estimates. Block data were also reported as being important for urban areas with population above a few thousand residents. According to our respondents, place-level data are also important. One data center affiliate cited a critical need for employment, labor-force participation, total income and income by category, household composition, housing stock, education, race, migration, and disability characteristics at the place level. That affiliate, however, noted that place-level data for some areas frequently involve the same trade-offs in reporting detail, accuracy, timeliness, and content as do block and tract-level data. That affiliate also said that if the long form were eliminated or the 1-in-2 sampling ratio were discontinued, there would be no substitute source for their data. CONCLUSIONS In reviewing the responses to the survey, several general themes emerged. First, it is difficult to say that any data item or level of geography can be discarded. As several centers noted, all of the data items are used by some group or agency for some purpose, whether for federally mandated reporting or for long-range local transportation planning or for economic analyses of an area. Second, all of the centers expressed a desire and need for current small-area data that are accurate at various levels of geography (e.g., tracts, block groups, and blocks). Third, the census is the only source of much of the data, and the centers reported that for them the census is the only source for obtaining reliable data.

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census TABLE E.1  Importance of Data Items as Reported by State Data Centers   Number of States Reporting Item Essential Very Important Important Less Important, but Useful Not Used, Used Infrequently, Infrequently Requested Unimportant, Not Essential Eliminate Residence 14     1       Household relationship 14     2       Migration 10     3       Place of birth 7     3   3   Fertility 7   3 1   2   Marital history 4 1 1   2 3   Race 16   1         Spanish/Hispanic origin 11   2 1       Ancestry 4   3 2 3 1 1 Citizenship 1   3 1 2 5 1 Year of entry 2   1 1 2 5 1 Language 4   5 1 1 3 1 School enrollment 8   2 3   2   Highest grade completed 9   3 2   2   Employment status 9   3 3a   1b   Work and employment     experience in prior year 7   2 1 1     Veteran status 3   1 2 1 4 1 Disability 7c   3 2 1 1 1 Transportation 6   2 4   2  

OCR for page 273
Modernizing the U.S. Census Income 17d   2         Poverty 17   2         Housing 10e 1 4f 3   1   Note:  18 states provided information on the importance of data items; however, not all states offered replies for every census item. a Data on industry are not frequently requested from the California State Data Center. b New Hampshire reported that employment status may not be useful below the county level in New Hampshire because labor can easily cross county lines, and suggested that the ability to obtain employment status through noncensus sources should be investigated. c One state data center reported that more detailed information on disability and handicapped status is needed; another center suggested eliminating some detail. d The California State Data Center reported that the source of income is not in high demand. e Several respondents suggested that some characteristics may be eliminated. f Some respondents reported that some items are vital; other items are not frequently used or requested from the state data centers.