What the Census Bureau Can Tell You About Some of the Communities Affected by Hurricane Sandy

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Written by: Acting Director Tom Mesenbourg

My heart goes out to all of the people in communities affected by Hurricane Sandy.  One way that the Census Bureau can help people impacted is to provide vital information about their communities.

This information is important to the first responders and others who will help those affected get back on their feet again, rebuild and prepare for potential future emergencies. You may be familiar with our local statistics and may have even used them to learn about your community, but did you know they are also critical to emergency planning, preparedness and recovery efforts?

The Census Bureau provides information not just on the number of people affected, but also information about who they are, for example are they elderly, what are their occupations and how they get to work each day.  The Census Bureau also provides information about the homes affected, such as is it an area where people heat their homes with propane tanks or are there many mobile homes in the area?

We also have information about the businesses in the area, because a disaster affects not just people who live in an area, but also the people who work there.  This information is all available on census.gov.

Our official population estimates, along with annually updated socioeconomic data from the American Community Survey, as well as our economic statistics, provide a detailed look at our coastal populations, such as communities in New York and New Jersey and throughout the East Coast, who bore the brunt of Hurricane Sandy.

A new Census Bureau tool, OnTheMap for Emergency Management helps communities prepare for an emergency. This tool traced the path of Hurricane Sandy starting on October 22. As the predictions about the Storm’s path changed, data on potential impacts were automatically updated.  This innovative tool provides information about the potentially affected population, the kinds of businesses impacted by a natural disaster, and the number and characteristics of workers, as well as where they live. You can use it to look at statistics for declared disaster areas and learn about things like the impacted industries, the ages of workers and workers’ earnings. These statistics can be used by communities to know not only how many people live in an area where there is a disaster but also how many people work in those areas.

OnTheMap screenshot

When a storm hits, one of the first questions many people have is the size of the population affected. For example, almost 4.4 million people lived in counties declared as disaster areas in New Jersey, more than 11 million in New York  and more than 2 million in Connecticut in 2011.

Digging deeper, when communities prepare for or respond to disasters, they often look at what vulnerable populations will need additional assistance. For example, they may look at the size of the elderly population. According to 2011 population estimates, in the counties with a major disaster declaration in New Jersey and New York, 13.8 percent and 12.9 percent of the population are 65 or older respectively. In Connecticut, 14.3 percent of the population in counties declared as disaster areas are 65 or older.

In addition to statistics from our population estimates, the American Community Survey can provide even more detailed information, such as how many people in a community speak a language other than English at home or are disabled. Knowing about these statistics give communities the information they need to plan how to provide services for these populations.

Another question often asked following an event like Hurricane Sandy is the economic impact. Census Bureau economic statistics can help communities measure this by having benchmark information about the number and location of business establishments and jobs from before the storm.

For example, if we look at our 2010 County Business Patterns data, we learn that there were 479,075 business establishments in the Connecticut, New Jersey and New York counties declared major disaster areas. The total employment and annual payroll in these areas was 6,723,791 and $427.4 billion respectively. These counties represent 61.2 percent of the total employment in Connecticut, 45.7 percent of the total employment in New Jersey, and 59.2 percent of the total employment in New York state.  The Local Employment Dynamics Program is another resource that can provide information on businesses and workers at small areas and by detailed characteristics.

These are just a few of the statistics available about these areas and how communities use them. You can explore more statistics about these areas by visiting our Census Data and Emergency Preparedness page.

Posted in Measuring America | Leave a comment

Inaugural Meeting of the Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations

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Written by: Tom Mesenbourg, Acting Director

October 25, 2012 began a new chapter for the Census Bureau advisory committees when we held our first meeting of the newly established National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations. We met all day Thursday and until past 1 p.m. on Friday, October 26. Twenty-five of the thirty-two committee members attended and everyone was an active participant.

It was great to welcome back some of the former members of the Race and Ethnic Advisory Committees as well to meet and interact with the many new members of NAC.  Paul Watanabe did a superb job chairing the meeting and Nancy Bates very capably served as the Designated Federal Official. The discussion was fulsome and the committee offered many good ideas, both regarding committee operations and Census programs.

Advisory Committees play an important role at the Census Bureau. It is all too easy for the Census Bureau, like any large organization, to become insular. Our capable staff have ably demonstrated that they can innovate and improve the efficiency of our operations, if we ask their advice. However, now more than ever, the challenges we currently face demand that we solicit good ideas and advice, seek new perspectives, and fully engage as many external experts as we can to help us address these challenges.

The diverse backgrounds and experiences of the National Advisory Committee members stimulated multidisciplinary discussions that promise to help us improve all of our programs—decennial, demographic and economic. The members’ deep expertise and perspectives regarding a wide variety of hard-to-count communities is going to be a great resource that the Census Bureau can draw on not only during the biannual meetings, but also all during the year.

I want to thank all of the NAC members for their willingness to provide this critically important public service. I look forward to working collaboratively with the committee and any of the work groups they establish. The NAC members’ expertise and commitment will help ensure that the Census Bureau continues to provide relevant and timely statistics on the people, places and economy of this nation, in an increasingly mobile, diverse and technologically oriented society.

Please visit the news release to find out more about the members of the NAC.

Posted in About the Agency, Measuring America | Leave a comment

Census Bureau Participates in Manufacturing Day

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Written by: Tom Mesenbourg, Acting Director

This week, we celebrate our manufacturing statistics in anticipation of not only the first-ever Manufacturing Day, but also the beginning of the 2012 Economic Census.

This month, we will begin mailing forms to millions of businesses throughout the country for the 2012 Economic Census — the official five-year measure of the American economy. This census serves as the foundation for the gross domestic product (GDP) and other indicators of economic performance, including several timely measures of manufacturing activity.

Today has been designated as the first-ever Manufacturing Day and gives us an opportunity to highlight our manufacturing statistics as we look ahead to the economic census. We are joining a group of public and private organizations in celebrating American manufacturing by highlighting our statistics.

So what do our statistics tell us about U.S. manufacturing? According to the 2010 County Business patterns:

1.      Manufacturing was the fourth largest U.S. employer among economic sectors in 2010, behind only health care and social assistance, retail trade, and accommodation and food services. The top five states in terms of manufacturing employment in 2010 were: California, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.

2.      As of March 12, 2010, there were 10.9 million manufacturing employees with an annual payroll of $550.4 billion. The average annual payroll per employee in manufacturing was $50,700 in 2010.

3.      In 25 states, manufacturing is one of the top three employers. The 141,831 manufacturing establishments in these states employ more than 6 million people with nearly $293 billion in annual payroll.

Other Census Bureau statistics tell us even more about American manufacturing – according to the 2010 Annual Survey of Manufactures, the total value of shipments was an estimated $4.9 trillion in 2010. The Profile of Exporters/Importers: 2009-2010, showed that 60 percent of the known value of U.S. exports in 2010 came from manufacturing.

While today is manufacturing day, we collect statistics year-round at the Census Bureau on the manufacturing sector of our economy. These statistics, when combined with other Census Bureau information can help manufacturers learn about their industries and communities, information that can help them grow their businesses. Check out our monthly manufacturing indicator, as well as a host of other current measures of economic activity on your Apple or Android device by downloading our new mobile app, “America’s Economy.”

You can learn more about of our manufacturing statistics by watching the archived C-SPAN’s Washington Journal “America by the Numbers” segment on manufacturing.  In addition, visit business.census.gov to learn more about the 2012 Economic Census and be sure to check out our infographic on U.S. manufacturing.

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Help Us Model Predicted Mail Return Rates by Participating in the Census Challenge

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Written by: Tom Mesenbourg, Acting Director

We could not produce statistics about our nation’s people, places and economy without your help. Your participation in our surveys gives us the information that tells us how we are doing as a nation. And in turn, we are able to paint a portrait of not only our nation, but your community.

census challenge

Your participation is vital to the data we collect. But we also know you have a lot of great ideas to make us a better, more efficient agency that will continue to produce high-quality statistics.

We want to tap into those great ideas and have created the first Census challenge—to find a better way to predict mail return rates for small geographic areas, like neighborhoods, based on their demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.  This prize competition is authorized under Section 105 of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2011, Public Law 111-358 (2011).

The 2010 Census achieved a return rate of 79.3 percent, which was the rate of returned forms for all occupied housing units. However, census and survey return rates vary considerably across geographic areas. For example, 2010 Census mail-form return rates ranged across states from a high of 82 percent to a low of 65 percent, with even more variation at the neighborhood or census tract level. The Census Return Rate Challenge asks participants to model these variations using predictive variables found in the updated Census Planning Database which includes information from both the 2010 Census and the American Community Survey.

During the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau saved about $85 million in operational costs for every percentage point increase in the nation’s participation rate by mail. A postage paid envelope cost taxpayers 42 cents, compared to $57 for an enumerator to visit the household. The winning model will help us develop more efficient and effective data collection strategies for both our ongoing household surveys and the 2020 Census.

We are posting the challenge on <www.kaggle.com>, an online platform for predictive modeling competitions. Already, there are 86 teams, 98 participants and 533 entries, allowing us to crowdsource the best solution for how to tackle this challenge.

There is still time to participate. The challenge ends Nov. 1, 2012. Not only do participants get to challenge themselves, they could be rewarded for it. A total of $25,000 in prize money will be awarded for the best submissions.

This challenge is just one way the Census Bureau is changing how we do business, allowing you to be an engine of innovation. I am excited about the initiatives we currently have underway that promise to transform our methods, processes, and products and I hope you will help us, by entering the competition today.

For more information, please visit the Federal Register Notice and Census Bureau Research site.

Posted in Measuring America | 5 Comments

Census Bureau Recognized at White House Innovation Event

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Written by: Tom Mesenbourg, Acting Director

Yesterday at the White House, U.S. Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel recognized the Census Bureau as a leader in the effort to make government information more easily accessible to the public. He also used the opportunity to announce that our America’s Economy mobile app is now available for iPhone and iPad.  Congratulations to everyone who made this happen.  It truly was a team effort involving staff from the Communications, Information Technology, and the Research directorates as well staff from all our program directorates.

The Census Bureau is meeting the goals of the three-month-old Federal Digital Strategy by providing faster and easier access to the statistics we produce through the recently released mobile app and our Application Programming Interface, which offers developers and users greater access to 2010 Census and American Community Survey data.

Yesterday’s ceremony, and the recognition was  very nice, but these are just two examples of how the Census Bureau is innovating every day.   You can read VanRoekel’s blog here.

Posted in About the Agency, Digital Transformation | 3 Comments