How Do You Access our Statistics?

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Written by: Acting Director Tom Mesenbourg

Last summer, we launched our first application programming interface (also known as an API), and this week we have made it even more useful. Now three decades worth of statistics about America’s people, their characteristics, and the communities where they live are available in the API, making it easier for developers to create Web and mobile apps fueled with Census Bureau statistics.

In addition to 2010 Census data and American Community Survey five-year estimates, the API now contains census data from 1990 and 2000.  Providing API access to more of our statistical and publicly available data sets is just one way we are changing how we do business in line with the Digital Government Strategy and open data initiatives.

If you wonder what an API can do, you can find an example right on Census.gov. One of our newest data access tools, Easy Stats, uses the Census Bureau’s API to provide you with fast access to data tables from the American Community Survey and is just one example of a tool developers can create.  Using the API, developers were able to include estimates for the new congressional districts for the 113th Congress in our latest version of Easy Stats, faster than if we had programmed the tables.

If you are a developer and have an idea for how to make Census Bureau data even more useful, you can create your own tool, like Easy Stats. We look forward to seeing what you create. In the coming year, we will be adding more data sets to the API based on your feedback.

Of course, not everyone is a developer, and we are committed to making Census Bureau statistics more accessible and easier to use. We also are adding new tools that make it easier to not only access our data sets but also to share, embed and download them.

If you are relatively new to Census Bureau data, you may want to start with a tool like QuickFacts or Easy Stats. Both tools provide access to popular information about a variety of U.S. geographies.

For those who want access to Census Bureau statistics on the go, you need not look farther than your Apple or Android device. Our first mobile app, America’s Economy, gives you timely updates from 16 key economic indicators, such as employment, manufacturing and retail sales.

While Easy Stats and America’s Economy are relatively new, we are also making improvements to data access tools you may already know. We recently released new features for American FactFinder, providing users from novice to advanced with options for finding statistics.

These are just a few of the data access tools we have available on Census.gov. Your feedback helps continue to improve these tools, giving you access to a variety of facts about our nation’s people, places and economy.

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2012 Economic Census data collection has begun!

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Written By: Acting Director Tom Mesenbourg

Since my last update, 2012 Economic Census operations are now under way. By now, nearly 4 million economic census forms will have landed on the desks of businesses across the country.

Economic census forms are sent to a little over 4 million of the 7 million business locations with paid employees in the U.S., as well as to businesses in Puerto Rico, Northern Marianas, American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. These business locations have received report forms tailored to their particular industry, making filing easier than ever.

The information collected in the economic census is critical to measuring the health of the U.S. economy. We recognize that reporting this information imposes a burden on the business community, but we have taken steps to minimize the burden and facilitate reporting. Businesses with four or fewer paid employees will have information collected from a small sample, excusing almost 3 million small locations from having to file. However, if your small business received an economic census report form, it is important that you complete and return it because your response represents 10 other small businesses.

Businesses with multiple locations will receive a form for each location, mailed generally to company headquarters. It is important that you return each completed form so we can publish detailed industry statistics for small geographic areas, such as towns, cities, and places.

Economic census forms are due Feb. 12, 2013. If you respond to the economic census by the due date, you will avoid being mailed a replacement form or receiving a follow-up phone call. This saves you, the taxpayer, money and permits us to get the 2012 Economic Census results out earlier.

Responding to the economic census is easier than ever, as businesses of all sizes are now able to report electronically. Businesses with only one location can report directly through an online questionnaire. Those with more than one location can use downloadable software with a spreadsheet-style option and use it to return their data by uploading a file to a secure Census Bureau website. Check out www.econhelp.census.gov to learn how to file your form electronically.

For detailed information about the value of the economic census, visit business.census.gov. The site includes video testimonials from business owners, government officials and other key individuals. It also provides examples of how economic census statistics are used.

So if you receive an economic census report form, go online, complete it, and submit it. Your response makes a difference!

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A New Era Begins For Our Field Directorate

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The Closing of Six Regional Offices

Written by: Acting Director Tom Mesenbourg

Eighteen months have passed since we first announced the planned December 2012 closure of six regional offices and a significant change in how we manage survey data collection through our 7,000 field interviewers.  Our goal was to reduce costs and improve data quality by allowing local home-based field supervisors to manage a trained, professional staff who know their communities and are experts in eliciting responses from sometime reluctant households.

This realignment was a complex, demanding undertaking with an aggressive schedule.  This task was even more challenging in that it resulted in the loss of jobs and a major realignment of office and field responsibilities.  Many other organizations have failed in implementing even more modest proposals, but the Field Directorate, as always, accomplished this mission and did it in a superb manner.

Regional offices in Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Kansas City, and Seattle will close on December 31, 2012.  Our six regional offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia will assume responsibilities for all data collection using reconfigured regional boundaries that now more evenly balance the field workload.

We knew this realignment would not be easy.  Yet managers and staff in the regions and headquarters rose to this challenge and performed amazing feats under trying circumstances. Even though staff in the closing offices were facing the loss of their jobs or earlier than planned retirements, while the remaining offices were expected to absorb double the work, the regional office staff performed professionally and exceptionally.  In the midst of significant change, the staff continued to meet our ongoing survey requirements, even as they changed the way we conduct and manage surveys.  Just as was the case with the 2010 Census, the mission came first and the Field delivered.

Just during the past 12 months, more than 625 home-based field supervisors were hired and trained, survey data collection databases were reconfigured to support the new boundaries, and new technology was deployed that permits home-based supervisors to have full and secured access to Census Bureau systems through our Virtual Desktop Interface technology.  Throughout the realignment process, ongoing data collection has continued without interruption and data quality has never suffered.

As this 50-year era of 12 regional offices ends and an even more demanding  era begins, I want to sincerely thank each of our regional staff for their unparalleled professionalism and  inspiring “get it done” work ethic.  Through your effort, dedication, and sacrifice the Census Bureau is well positioned to adapt to a rapidly changing future that demands new ways of doing business both in the regions and at Headquarters.  The Field Directorate has shown the rest of the Census Bureau how to implement transformational change professionally, on time, and under budget.  The ongoing effort to transform how we manage our reimbursable surveys and the work being done by the Center for Adaptive Design rely on your innovations.  The entire organization owes each and every one of you that worked on this Field realignment our gratitude and respect.

Finally, a special thanks to all the employees that worked in one of the six closing offices.  This realignment was especially difficult for you.  While we were able to find jobs for many of you in other Census Bureau locations, or assist others finding jobs in your local area, others are retiring or still looking for employment.  Yet, each one of you carried out your responsibilities throughout the realignment. Thank you for your notable accomplishments and your many years of dedicated service.  I wish each and every one of you only the best.

Posted in About the Agency | 3 Comments

Remembering Louis Kincannon

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Written by: Acting Director Tom Mesenbourg

It is with sadness that I share the news of the passing of Charles Louis Kincannon, our former director. As we mourn the loss of Louis, we share the knowledge that while Louis often spoke softly, his career and life were tributes to values such as dedication, honor, and friendship.

Louis believed in public service and began his career as a statistician at the U.S. Census Bureau in 1963, and held positions of increasing responsibility in the economic, demographic, and administrative areas. In 1974, he became chief of the program review staff in the Commerce Department’s Social and Economic Statistics Administration.

In September 1975, during the Ford administration, he joined the staff of the Office of Management and Budget and served as the statistical liaison to Vice President Nelson Rockefeller’s office.  Louis returned to the Census Bureau and was appointed deputy director and chief operating officer in January 1982. He continued in the post until September 1992. Louis was then appointed as the first chief statistician in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, where he served until June 2000.

President George W. Bush nominated Louis for director of the Census Bureau in November 2001, and the Senate confirmed him unanimously on March 13, 2002. He served as our director until the end of 2007.

Throughout his career, Louis received many honors, such as the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive and the Department of Commerce Gold Medal, and he shared his experience and wisdom with many. Even in retirement, Louis continued in public service, as he was a member of his neighborhood board and continued to share the importance and utility of Census Bureau programs, such as the American Community Survey, with many audiences.

We will mourn the loss of this faithful friend to the Census Bureau and share our sorrow at his passing with his family, including his wife, Claire, and his daughters, Indya and Alexandra, and the five grandchildren. The family would like you to share your thoughts and memories about Louis, and we encourage you to do so in the comments below.

Please find below details about the memorial service:

Memorial Service for Louis Kincannon
11:30 a.m.
Monday, January 7th, 2013
Christ Church of Capitol Hill
620 G Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Posted in About the Agency | 35 Comments

The American Community Survey – The Big Data Source for Information about your Community

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Written by: Acting Director Tom Mesenbourg

For just the third time, today we released the American Community Survey five-year estimates, which are for 2007-2011. These annual five-year estimates, represent a major statistical innovation in that they provide detailed economic, social, demographic, and housing information for over 700,000 communities, information that prior to the ACS was available only once a decade.  There is much media hype about Big Data, but the ACS five-year statistics, containing almost 11 billion estimates, deliver on the Big Data promise. They provide local communities with the information they need to make informed decisions.

Each year, approximately 2 million survey responses are collected from households. If you participated in the American Community Survey, I thank you. Your response allows us to provide the detailed information that your community uses to decide where to build new hospitals or new schools or to assess the socio-economic condition of residents. Businesses also rely on ACS statistics to identify market opportunities, assess the characteristics of the workforce and the housing stock, and make investment decisions.

Just last week, we released a data product that shows the power of the American Community Survey in action. Relying on the 2006-2010 ACS five-year estimates, we produced the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Tabulation, sponsored by four federal agencies. With more than 19 billion statistics and requiring more than 1 trillion calculations to complete, it provides a comprehensive profile of the American workforce. Without the ACS, we would not have this important resource available to organizations wishing to compare the diversity of their labor force with the diversity of the areas from which they draw their workers.

When we look at the American Community Survey five-year estimates released today, they provide new insights about the nation’s communities, including information about age distributions, educational attainment and whether residents rent or own their homes. For example, they tell us that in Sierra County, NM, 23.8 percent of households had a person 65 and older who lived alone, among the highest in the nation.

I can also look at the statistics to learn more about the community where I live. In my town of La Plata, MD, 6.5 percent of the population age 5 and older speak a language other than English at home. In addition, 28.7 percent of the population age 25 and older have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher.

I encourage you to explore these statistics and learn more about your local community. Soon it will be even easier for you to use this important data source. We continue to look for ways to make Census Bureau information more accessible and useful. I am excited to tell you about a new tool that we will be unveiling in the coming weeks and two that are already available.

Today, we updated QuickFacts with the new American Community Survey statistics, which allows you to find information about a town, county or state with just a few clicks. Today, we also released “Easy Stats,” which will allow users to build tables by selecting a desired topic and a specific geography. Early next year, we will also unveil “Dwellr,” our first mobile app that uses ACS statistics.

Besides making Census Bureau information more accessible, we are committed to providing respondents with new tools that make it easier to respond to our surveys and censuses. Beginning in mid-December (for the January 2013 panel), American Community Survey sampled households will be able to provide their survey responses online.

For more information about the American Community Survey and the estimates released today, please visit the ACS page.

Posted in Measuring America | Tagged | 1 Comment