Appendix A Federal Data Provision
Federal Agencies Data Provision Programs
For many years, there have been efforts to create data sharing opportunities among federal agencies and to open up opportunities for partnerships with state and local governments to enhance public efforts in the coordination of the data available for common programs. The Federal Geographic Data Committee has set the stage for several projects in this spirit. Yet challenges remain, including efforts to improve data collection and dissemination and to increase public understanding of and appreciation for the uses of the data discussed in this report.
Federal data programs have been developed primarily to carry out agency-specific missions. Congress plays an essential role in mandating cross-agency coordination. Interagency cooperation and coordination require specific directives or permission and sufficient funding.
Each of the federal departments carries critical responsibilities in serving the interests of the nation. Although the collection, analysis, and reporting of data and information are designed primarily to support these unique and critical national missions, cooperation in areas of mutual interest could enhance the ability of all agencies of government to serve the public. Most early efforts at coordination have focused on areas of public service, including emergency management and environmental issues. During the most recent U.S. Census, efforts began to develop better ways
to keep geography programs coordinated with state and local governments to foster better and more efficient use of data. Proposed changes in the Census data collection and dissemination process represent an example of the potential for expanded use of various federal data sources to address cross-disciplinary public policy issues. Exploring the support, standards, and controls that are needed to encourage similar efforts, as well as how to finance such efforts, may provide a true base for challenging the separate and individualized systems currently in use. In addition and specifically, privacy issues and current regulatory barriers should be addressed.
The federal statistical system that produces data from the social, environmental, and economic sectors in the United States is highly decentralized. More than 70 different federal agencies collect, analyze, and disseminate data (Cortright and Reamer, 1988). This effort is the result of the historical development of the federal data system tracing back to the mid-nineteenth century (Norwood, 1995.) Decentralization offers advantages and drawbacks. Although it is challenging for users to gather information spread over a wide range of agency sources, decentralization allows individual agencies to specialize in terms of fulfilling the data users’ needs, making the federal statistical system a rich source of data for regional and local decision making.
Three federal statistical agencies have primary responsibility for providing regional social and economic data; the Bureau of the Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. These are all agencies of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and their contributions are summarized below. (For details on the historical antecedents of our current federal statistical system see Norwood, 1995. For more details on federal agency provision of socioeconomic data see Cortright and Reamer, 1988.)
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE (DOC)
Bureau of the Census (Census)
The Census Bureau provides data on population (e.g., age, race, educational attainment), quality of life (e.g., housing, health, crime), and economic activities (e.g., income, jobs, businesses) derived from the national decennial (10-year) Census. The decennial Census has two purposes: (1) to count the U.S. population and (2) to determine demographic, housing, social, and economic information.
American Community Survey
The American Community Survey (ACS) is a new approach, designed to collect timely information needed for critical government functions. It is an ongoing survey that the Census Bureau plans to use to replace the long form in the 2010 Census. Toward the end of each 10-year Census cycle, long-form information becomes out of date. ACS allows community leaders and other data users to have access to more timely information for planning and evaluating public programs than is available from the decennial Census.
The ACS will provide estimates of demographic, housing, social, and economic characteristics every year for all states, cities, counties, metropolitan areas, and population groups of 65,000 people or more. For smaller areas, it will take three to five years to produce data. For rural areas and city neighborhoods, or for population groups of less than 20,000, it will take five years to accumulate a sample similar to that of the decennial Census. These averages can be updated every year, so that eventually, it will be possible to measure changes over time for small areas and population groups.
State and County QuickFacts provide frequently requested Census Bureau information at the national, state, and county levels. This user-friendly web site provides access to multiple datasets.
This provides a search feature of the Census Bureau’s web site that helps users locate data quickly and easily from the 1997 Economic Census, the ACS, the 1990 Census, the Census 2000 Dress Rehearsal, and Census 2000. Access to thematic maps and reference maps that include roads and boundary information is available via FactFinder.
Bureau of Economic Analysis
The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) prepares regional economic accounts for the United States to provide estimates of state and local-area personal income and gross state product. For state personal income and gross state product, BEA’s regional estimates are comparable across each region and state, and for local-area personal income, BEA’s regional estimates are comparable across each metropolitan area, BEA economic area, and county. BEA’s Regional Economic Information system (REIS) is a comprehensive federal income and employment series.
The estimates and analyses of state and local-area personal income and of gross state product are published in BEA’s monthly journal, Survey of Current Business. In addition, BEA also prepares estimates of regional economic multipliers.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT (HUD)
The mission of HUD is to provide a decent, safe, and sanitary home and suitable living environment for every American. HUD’s efforts are aimed at creating opportunities for homeownership; providing housing assistance for low-income persons; working to create, rehabilitate, and maintain the nation’s affordable housing; enforcing the nation’s fair housing laws; helping the homeless; and spurring economic growth in distressed neighborhoods.
Research Maps (R-MAPS)
Research Maps (R-MAPS) is a set of HUD products designed to democratize housing and urban data, making the data more accessible and usable to researchers, policy makers, and practitioners. The geographically coded data in these CD-ROMs provide Geographic Information System (GIS) data pertaining to a wide variety of housing and urban issues in U.S. localities.
HUD On-Line Bibliographic Database
The HUD USER database is the only bibliographic database dedicated to housing and community development issues, containing more than 10,000 full-abstract citations in housing policy, building technology, economic development, and urban planning.
Urban Research Monitor
This newsletter provides a comprehensive list of new housing and community development research, organized by subject from “affordable housing” to “zoning.”
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
BLS provides three types of data for use in place-based and regional planning: labor force status of persons by place of residence; jobs and wages by place of work; and prices and living conditions. The Local Area Unemployment Statistics Program prepares monthly labor force data for 6,700 areas in the United States, including states, metropolitan areas, counties, and cities of more that 25,000.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (DOT)
Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS)
Intermodal Transportation Database
The Intermodal Transportation Database (ITDB) provides a variety of transportation data. These data have been collected by various agencies within DOT and other federal agencies, such as the Census Bureau. The
ITDB is being released in stages. Currently available features include a downloadable center and links to many transportation-related sites on the Internet. The ITDB mapping center includes GIS applications and datasets. The ITDB web site also offers the ability to download numerous datasets containing raw ITDB data. Datasets include airline ontime flight data, population estimates data, hazardous materials, recreational boat accident reporting, and National Transportation Safety Board data.
The Transportation Data Links option provides a one-stop gateway to relevant transportation data and information. Individuals, decision and policy makers, private sector businesses, and organizations can access timely and relevant data.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (USDA)
The mission of the USDA is to enhance the quality of life for the American people by supporting the production of agriculture. The department carries out this mission by ensuring a safe, affordable, nutritious, and accessible food supply; caring for agricultural, forest, and rangelands; supporting sound development of rural communities; providing economic opportunities for farm and rural residents; expanding global markets for agricultural and forest products and services; and working to reduce hunger in America and throughout the world.
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
The NRCS manages many programs to conserve and sustain the country’s natural resources. Agents across the country work with farmers and others to develop management plans that yield economic and environmental benefits. Much of this work is based on soil maps, because soil types are so important to crop yields and environmental issues. Their National Cooperative Soil Survey (NCSS) program is a partnership led by NRCS of federal land management agencies, state agricultural experiment stations, and state and local units of government that provide soil survey information necessary for understanding, managing, conserving, and sustaining the nation’s limited soil resources.
Soil surveys provide a scientific inventory of soil resources including maps that display locations and extent of soils, and data regarding the physical and chemical properties of those soils. These data provide information regarding potential problems for use of each kind of soil to assist farmers, agricultural technicians, community planners, engineers, and scientists in planning and transferring the findings of research and expe
rience to specific land areas. The Soil Survey Geographic Database (SSURGO) consists of map data, attribute data, and metadata and makes up the most detailed of NRCS data. However, only a fraction of the nation’s counties have usable digital soil surveys.
U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA)
EPA’s mission is to protect human health and safeguard the natural environment, including air, water, and land, upon which life depends. For 30 years, EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people.
Smart Travel Resources Database
This web site provides information about campaigns that encourage people to make travel decisions that have positive impacts on air quality, congestion, and quality of life. The Resource Center was developed to assist transportation practitioners, public decision makers, industry, consultants, public interest groups, and others who support alternatives to information exchanges about these issues. The center is organized by program characteristics, including location, sponsor, targeted pollutants, program type, and program title. By selecting the category of greatest interest, users can access a list of all applicable program summaries and can subsequently select particular summaries to view or print. Each summary provides information on the program’s purpose, theme, development status, basic design elements, and other key features. In addition, there are links to various materials used by the program (e.g., brochures, posters).
Electronic Newsletter from EPA’s Information Resources Center
The EPA Headquarters Information Resources Center publishes a weekly electronic newsletter that describes environmental information and databases available from federal agencies, state and local governments, academic entities, the private sector, and other sources.
EPA’s Envirofacts Database
EPA’s Envirofacts database and mapping applications web site—a single point of access to a wide range of the agency’s data—provides access to several EPA databases about emissions, pollutants, and activities affecting air, water, and land in the United States. Users can query the databases individually or search multiple databases. The site also contains associated mapping tools such as EnviroMapper and Query Mapper, which allow users to visualize environmental information at national, state, and county levels.
EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS)
EPA maintains this electronic database containing information on human health effects that may result from exposure to various chemicals in the environment. IRIS was originally developed for EPA staff to provide consistent information on chemical substances for use in risk assessments, decision making, and regulatory activities. This information is most useful to individuals who have some knowledge of the health sciences, and it is now available to the public.
EPA’s Window to My Environment
This web site is a prototype web-based tool that provides a wide range of federal, state, and local data. The information provides visual representations of environmental conditions and features by city and zip code. Among the information available is air emissions, Superfund sites, hazardous waste information, demographic data, and natural features, which can be selected and viewed in combined layers.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR (DOI)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
National Wetlands Inventory Center
The National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) of the FWS produces information on the characteristics, extent, and status of the nation’s wetlands and deepwater habitats. The NWI has mapped 89 percent of the lower 48 states and 31 percent of Alaska. About 39 percent of the data for the lower 48 states and 11 percent of Alaska are digitized (computer-readable digitized wetlands data can be integrated with other layers of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure [see below under interagency sources] such as natural resources and cultural and physical features). These efforts can lead to production of selected color and customized maps of the information from wetland maps, and the transfer of digital data to users and researchers worldwide. NWI also maintains a map database of metadata containing production information, history, and availability of all maps and digital wetlands data produced by NWI, and dissemination of wetlands-related spatial data. These data can be used in a variety of applications, including planning for watershed and drinking water supply protection, siting of transportation corridors, construction of solid waste facilities, and siting of schools and other municipal buildings.
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The USGS web site provides an enormous variety of materials, including fact sheets, data, maps, reports, and links to other sites of interest. Below are some highlights of the USGS web site.
In the early 1970s, the National Atlas of the United States of America was typically found in the reference collections of libraries across the United States. Educators and government organizations were the primary customers for the original publication, but not many Americans were adding
the atlas to their home libraries due to its cost ($100). The new National Atlas is designed for individuals and organizations owning personal computers.
The National Atlas includes five distinct products and services. In addition to providing high-quality, small-scale maps, the atlas includes national geospatial and geostatistical data sets. Examples of digital geospatial data include soils, county boundaries, volcanoes, and watersheds. Crime patterns, population distribution, and incidence of disease are examples of geostatistical data. This information is tied to specific geographic areas and is categorized and indexed using different methods, such as county, state, and zip code boundaries, or geographic coordinates such as latitude and longitude. These data are collected and integrated to a consistent set of standards for reliability.
The atlas includes on-line interactive maps. These maps include links to related sites on the Internet for more up-to-date, real-time, and regional data information. The new atlas also includes multimedia maps designed to animate and illustrate change. Finally, the National Atlas includes both documentation for each map layer and articles that describe why the data were collected and how they have been used.
USGS Hydrology Division
Water data available on the USGS web site include real-time data from 3,000 on-line stations in the United States. The National Water Information System web site (NWISWeb) includes water resources data for approximately 1.5 million sites in the United States, territories, and border locations, from 1857 to present. Data can be retrieved according to this category, such as surface water, ground water, or water quality, and by geographic area. Of the 1.5 million sites with data, 80 percent are wells; 350,000 are water quality sites; and 19,000 are streamflow sites, of which more than 5,000 are real time. NWISWeb contains about 4.3 million water quality samples and 64 million water quality sampling results. Data are also available on water quality monitoring, sediment transport and associated contaminants in streams nationwide, water use data by county and watershed, and acid rain precipitation and deposition data from more than 200 stations nationwide. (Also see the National Hydrography Dataset [EPA-USGS] under interagency sources below.) GIS data for water resources are also made available at this site.
U.S. GLOBAL CHANGE RESEARCH PROGRAM (USGCRP)
The USGCRP works with research institutions to improve climate fluctuation and long-term climate change prediction. The USGCRP sponsors research of vulnerability to environmental change, including climate, ultraviolet radiation, and land cover.
Gateway to Global Change Information
This site provides current news regarding climate change and access to datasets of climate change data. The site contains links to relevant agency programs.
The FedStat Task Force
FedStats offers a range of official statistical information made available to the public by the federal government. The site offers Internet links and search capabilities to track economic and population trends, health care costs, aviation safety, foreign trade, energy use, farm production, and more. It is possible to access official statistics collected and published by more than 70 federal agencies without having to know which agency collects them.
FedStats includes MapStats, which allows users to access data according to state, county, federal judicial district, or congressional district. In addition, Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates allow users to locate economic data on the scale of school districts. The Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates program of the U.S. Census Bureau uses models to estimate the income and poverty for states, counties, and school districts during years between Census measurements. A wide array of other state, county, and local-area statistics are available.
Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC)
FirstGov is a government web site that provides one-stop access to all on-line U.S. federal government resources. The site provides information, rather than “data.” FirstGov offers browsing capabilities to a wide range of information from the collections of the Library of Congress to following the progress of a National Aeronautics and Space Administration mission. It also enables users to apply for student loans, track Social Security benefits, compare Medicare options, and administer government grants and contracts.
National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI)
The NSDI, established by Executive Order 12906, provides for a consistent means of sharing geographic data among all users to produce significant savings in data collection and provides geospatial data throughout all levels of government, private and nonprofit sectors, and the academic community.
The goals of this infrastructure include reducing duplication of effort among agencies; improving quality and reducing costs of geographic information in order to make geographic data more accessible to the public; increasing the benefits of using available data; and establishing key partnerships with states, counties, cities, tribal nations, academia, and the private sector to increase data availability. The NSDI framework’s seven geographic data themes are geodetic control (National Geodetic Survey), ortho-imagery (USGS-NRCS), elevation (USGS), transportation (DOT, USGS, Census), hydrography (USGS), government units (Census), and cadastral information (Bureau of Land Management). NSDI also supplies information regarding community partnership programs.
NSDI Community Demonstration Projects
The FGDC, National Partnership for Reinventing Government, and five federal agencies conduct the NSDI Community Demonstration Projects to demonstrate the utility of geographic data for community
decision making and the role that federal agencies play in community information needs. The demonstration projects included in the report are Baltimore, Maryland (crime prevention and analysis); Dane County, Wisconsin (comprehensive land use planning); Gallatin County, Montana (Smart Growth); Tillamook County, Oregon (flood mitigation and restoration); Tijuana River Watershed, San Diego, California (environmental restoration); and Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna Watershed, Pennsylvania (flood mitigation and environmental management).
National Hydrography Dataset
The National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) is a cooperative EPA-USGS program that provides a comprehensive set of digital spatial data that contain information pertaining to surface water features such as lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, springs, and wells. Within the NHD, surface water features are combined and provide a framework for linking water-related data to the NHD surface water drainage network. These linkages enable analysis and display of these water-related data in upstream and down-stream sequence.
The NHD is based on the content of USGS Digital Line Graph (DLG) hydrography data integrated with reach-related information from the EPA Reach File Version 3 (RF3). Based on 1:100,000-scale data, the NHD is designed to incorporate and encourage the development of higher-resolution data.
U.S. Interagency Working Group on Sustainable Development Indicators
In 1996, the U.S. Interagency Working Group on Sustainable Development Indicators (SDI Group) in Washington, D.C., recognized the importance of monitoring the nation’s progress toward national sustainability goals. One goal was to assist the federal government in developing national indicators of progress toward sustainable development in collaboration with nongovernmental organizations and the private sector. The web site provides information, background research papers, and links to data sources. An extensive and well-documented report on indicators for sustainable development in the United States, entitled “Sustainable Development in the United States: An Experimental Set of Indicators,” is available.
Cortright, J., and A. Reamer. 1988. Socioeconomic Data for Understanding Your Regional Economy. Washington, D.C.: Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.
Norwood, J. 1995. Organizing to Count: Change in the Federal Statistical System. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute Press.