Exploring Relationships with the Census

The folks at the Knight/Mozilla OpenNews Source blog recently asked me to write about a Census topic of my choosing, and I chose to focus on a lesser-traveled piece of Census data: relationships.

The post, Understanding Households and Relationships in Census Data, walks through the definitions the Census Bureau uses for householders and relatives, how it asks the questions and tabulates the results, and some of the key tables that report the data. Thanks to the OpenNews team for letting me dust off my Census know-how!

Lessons From a Census Factory

After two months of processing Census data and writing about it here, I’m ready for a nice break. But before I go off to explore other topics, I thought I’d wrap this episode of Census 2010 with a look at how my teammates and I processed the data. My deepest thanks to my colleagues for doing such a great job. And many thanks to the journalists across the U.S. who offered encouragement as we shared our work with the journalism community.

*   *   *   *

On a Thursday afternoon in the first week of February, three of us from our newsroom’s database team gathered at my computer and tried our best to subdue the butterflies swarming in our stomachs. What we were about to do, we hoped, would not only help us cover the year’s biggest demographic story but also help journalists across the country do the same.

That’s because weeks earlier, somewhere in the midst of poring through Census technical manuals and writing a few thousand lines of SAS code, we’d had a bright idea:

Let’s share this.


Census 2010 State Stories: Week 8

The eighth and final (phew!) week of Census 2010 P.L. 94 redistricting data releases brought data nerds back to east coast states — including one of the largest, New York. Here’s my final roundup of interesting stories and data applications made by journalists for this round of the Census:

District of Columbia: With 39,000 fewer black people since 2000, the nation’s capital is on the verge of seeing blacks lose majority status there, The Washington Post wrote. Its story explained:

The demographic change is the result of almost 15 years of gentrification that has transformed large swaths of Washington, especially downtown. As housing prices soared, white professionals priced out of neighborhoods such as Dupont Circle began migrating to predominantly black areas such as Petworth and Brookland.

The Post offered a ward-by-ward graphic explaining the city’s population changes, and its interactive map was updated to include D.C. along with Maryland and Virginia.

Maine: The state, which is 94% white, lost population in its north and eastern counties, The Bangor Daily News reported. On that page, note the BDN’s use of a Census Bureau-provided interactive map — one of many cases where news orgs picked up a government-issued graphic.

Census 2010 State Stories: Week 7

This week’s release of nine states’ worth of Census data took us from corner to corner of the U.S. — from Alaska to Florida — with a bunch of upper Midwest states thrown in. Only eight states plus Washington, D.C., are left.

My USA TODAY colleague Paul Overberg and I continued pulling each state’s data for our interactive map and state profile pages, and our shop continued to write at least one story about each state. This week, reporter Dennis Cauchon’s story on North Dakota’s population boom was picked up by the Drudge Report and became our site’s top story for a day and a half. Who’d have thought?

Here’s a rundown of interesting stories and interactives:

Smart story: Rob Chaney of Montana’s The Missoulian wrote about Huson, one of 85 new “places” designated by the Census Bureau in the 2010 count. Shows what you can do if you can think non-numbers about a numbers story. Don’t miss the final quote.

Census 2010 State Stories: Week 6

Week 6 in the Census 2010 redistricting data rollout included some of the nation’s most populous states — California, Ohio and Pennsylvania among them — and one of the deepest selections of stories and news apps yet.


Arizona: The state’s 46% increase in Hispanic residents in the last decade was a prime mover in its growth, The Arizona Republic reported. The New York Times’ story says that Arizona’s Hispanic growth was slower than expected, however, and some activists suspect an undercount.