U.S. Census Bureau
[Editor's note: this is a guest post from Joan Naymark, director of Minnesotans for the American Community Survey (MACS). Joan's bio is posted below. Check out MACS facebook page to keep up to date and find out how you can help assure that the ACS continues.]
The U.S. Census Bureau has a Data Visualization Gallery where they post weekly "explorations of Census data." Some of these strike me as unnecessary (does adding animation to the map of population density around Interstate 5 add any value to the data?), but strangely cool; (I will never be able to drive north from San Diego again without remembering this map!). At the very least, the site is a showcase for the data and (I hope) an inspiration to budding data visualizers!
Hat tip to LAist, a website about Los Angeles, that has a brief story (4 Cool Ways Of Visualizing Local Census Data) that links to some of their favorites that show how the population has been changing in Los Angeles and California relative to the rest of the country.
The U.S. Census Bureau is going through the final integration tests for the next TIGERweb release. TIGERweb v2.0 (beta) will consist of a new set of map services using American Community Survey (ACS) 2011 source data, an upgraded viewer application based on comments received from our users, and a relocation of our Census 2010 viewer to TIGERweb2010. We hope to release this new version the week of September 17, 2012. Expect more information about this release later this week.
If you have any questions or comments about TIGERweb, you may contact us by sending a message to email@example.com.
The Census Bureau provides the Research Data Products page with links to new tools that make data more accessible and understandable. Bureau researchers also create new data products from existing data collections.
There are some very interesting services here! Check out the innovative "synthetic data" projects: Synthetic Survey of Income and Program Participation (a Beta version of synthetic microdata on individuals) and the Synthetic Longitudinal Business Database (Beta version of synthetic microdata on all U.S. establishments) as well as the more traditional: Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates Interactive Map Tool and Quarterly Workforce Indicators and much more!
- Research Data Products
- Demographic - People and Households
- Economic - Businesses
- Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics - Workforce
Robert Groves, Census Bureau Director, resigned August 11, 2012 to become Provost at Georgetown University. We wish Director Groves well! Tom Mesenbourg, the new acting Director, writes that "The Times, They Are a-Changin’". I really enjoyed Director Groves' openness and tell-it-like-it-is communication style -- whether it was explaining why some census surveys are mandatory or ripping into GOP members of the US House Appropriations Committee for attempting to eliminate the ACS. Let's hope that Acting Director Mesenbourg will continue to communicate openly with the public in explaining the inner workings of the US Census Bureau and it's important work. That is all.
We face a challenging future. Resources will be constrained and possibly reduced. Getting businesses, institutions, and households to participate in surveys and censuses will become more difficult. Policy makers, public and private decision makers, and the general public demands for relevant, timely information will grow, and users will expect information to be easily accessible and to be available for small geographic areas and small population groups.
To respond to this future we must change. We need to change the way we collect, compile, and produce statistics. We must offer multiple response options that facilitate reporting and reduce reporting burden. We must be more attentive and responsive to data providers concerns. And finally we must find ways to integrate Census Bureau data sets with public and private data sets to develop new low cost products. I am excited about the initiatives we currently have underway that promise to transform our methods, processes, and products and you will hear more about them in future blogs.
I have been at the Census Bureau for almost 40 years, but I am more convinced than ever that we need to continue to innovate. Our employees have demonstrated that they can be engines of innovation and over the past several years, they have submitted hundreds of great ideas that save money and improve products and processes. We also need to be attuned to the concerns of our data providers. In January 2013, we will roll out an Internet reporting option for the American Community Survey that will make reporting easier for sampled households.
We also need to make our statistics more accessible, both for every day users and those who are just discovering them. On July 26, we released our first-ever Application Programming Interface (API), allowing developers to create apps using 2010 Census and American Community Survey information. We are already seeing developers create some great apps from the API.
During the first week of August, we followed up the release of the API with our first-ever mobile app, America’s Economy. This app provides users with instant access to 16 key economic indicators from not only the Census Bureau but also the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The economist in me finds this app a cool new tool, and I encourage all of you to check it out and tell us how we can make it even more useful.
I ran into this odd post recently about the US Census Bureau's census tool called American Factfinder -- odd because it was mix of interesting, fact-based reporting with a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek facetiousness. Nursing a "long-standing grudge against another piece of contractor-built government software," William Hartnett (who may or may not be a journalist) decided to submit a FOIA request to find out how much it cost to build and then wrote a post about it entitled "The U.S. Census Bureau’s American FactFinder, which everyone in the universe hates, cost taxpayers $33.3 million. So that’s great."
Hartnett's FOIA request garnered an amazingly quick response from the US Census Bureau:
The name of the company that developed the current version of the American FactFinder web application is IBM U.S. Federal and the total $33,340,681.00.
While I'm the first to admit that FactFinder is a difficult and confusing tool to use (not to mention that the Census Bureau decided not to host the 1990 census data on AFF2 but instead to only make it available for download on their FTP server!), I would put it in neither the "useless boondoggle" nor even the "steamy pile of sh*t" category. But at least now we now know how much FactFinder cost to build.
Besides that little informational tidbit, Hartnett also provided pointers to 2 Web sites of interest:
Muckrock: This site, for a small fee (not clear if they'll manage your FOIA fees exemption), helps researchers, journalists and the public submit and manage their FOIA requests, and scans and makes them available to the public. Check out the FOIA requests currently in their queue. You can follow @MuckRockNews on twitter.
Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) has a Census project "designed to provide journalists with a simpler way to access 2010 Census data so they can spend less time importing and managing the data and more time exploring and reporting the data." This is a great example of a useful tool built from bulk data supplied by the US Census Bureau! Check out the tool and let us know what you think.
Irony = Consolidated Federal Funds Report discontinued, Senate to hold hearing on transparency of federal fundingSubmitted by jrjacobs on Sat, 2012-07-14 07:13.
We just posted about the impending doom of the Consolidated Federal Funds Report (CFFR). Well guess what I found in my latest weekly email update from the Project on Government Oversight (POGO)? I found an announcement for a hearing of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on July 18, 2012 (Location: SD-342) entitled -- get this! -- "Show Me the Money: Improving the Transparency of Federal Spending." It seems to me that the quickest and easiest way to improve the transparency in federal funding is to re-fund the Federal Financial Statistics program and the Consolidated Federal Funds Report (CFFR).
I hope all of our readers -- and especially those from states with Senators sitting on that committee (CT, ME, MI, HI, DE, AR, LA, MO, MT, AK, OK, MA, AZ, WI, OH, KY, KS) -- will contact Senator Joe Lieberman (Committee Chairman) and Senator Susan Collins (Ranking member) and ALL of the other Senators and request that the CFFR be reinstated.
Here's sample email text to copy/paste:
Dear Senator ______________,
I see that the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will be holding a hearing on July 18th entitled "Show Me the Money: Improving the Transparency of Federal Spending." You may be aware that the Census Bureau's Federal Financial Statistics program will be shut down on July 31, 2012 due to budget cuts. This includes the critical publication "Consolidated Federal Funds Report (CFFR)" http://www.census.gov/govs/cffr/. According to the Census Website, the CFFR contains "virtually all Federal expenditures, including grants, loans, direct payments, insurance, procurement, salaries and wages and other awards (such as price supports and research awards). Data represent actual expenditures (or outlays)."
As a government information librarian at _________________________, I can attest that this publication is highly sought after by researchers, faculty, students, and the public looking into federal spending. Reinstating the Federal Financial Statistics Program and continuing publication of the CFFR would be a very large step in the right direction toward greater transparency in federal funding -- which I believe is the goal of this upcoming hearing.
Thank you for your attention to the important issue of government transparency and responsible spending.
Due to the termination of the Federal Financial Statistics program, the Consolidated Federal Funds Report (CFFR) website, including the On-Line Query System, will be shut down on July 31, 2012. Historical CFFR data will be available by request or via a Census Bureau FTP site. Available files will include the U.S. and Individual States Combined, Individual State Files, accompanying reference files, and .pdf publication reports. In addition, the Federal Aid to States and Federal Expenditures by State historical .pdf publications will also be available by request or via a Census Bureau FTP site.
For questions regarding future access to these historical files, please contact the Governments Division - Education and Outreach Branch at firstname.lastname@example.org
What is the Consolidated Federal Funds Report and why is it so critical? Here's Census' description of the resource:
Data are obtained on the amount of virtually all Federal expenditures, including grants, loans, direct payments, insurance, procurement, salaries and wages and other awards (such as price supports and research awards). Data represent actual expenditures (or outlays) with some exceptions. For example, contract amounts may represent obligations, loans and insurance can include cash and contingent liability values, and grants to individuals may reflect benefit commitments. Expenditures are reported by responsible department or agency, and classified by affected program (such as Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief grants or Food and Nutrition Services Women Infants and Children (WIC) Program).
That's a LOT of data that will soon disappear!
We've been tracking on HR 5326 "Making appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013" and more specifically the Webster-Lankford amendment (which passed the House on May 9, 2012 by a vote of 232 - 190) which cuts funding for the American Community Survey. Data collected by the ACS are used by policy makers to determine the distribution of federal funding for everything from schools to roads and bridges, to emergency services and Medicaid benefits -- and is of vital interest to researchers, teachers, students and the public to learn more about and track on issues important to their communities.
If you care about this vital program, please sign the Save the American Community Survey petition. It's crucial that our Federal lawmakers know about the public's concern, and understand why they need the ACS to do their very jobs!
UPDATE 5/22/12 noon PST: The Sunday NY Times, in an article entitled "The Beginning of the End of the Census?" put it succinctly:
This survey of American households has been around in some form since 1850, either as a longer version of or a richer supplement to the basic decennial census. It tells Americans how poor we are, how rich we are, who is suffering, who is thriving, where people work, what kind of training people need to get jobs, what languages people speak, who uses food stamps, who has access to health care, and so on.
It is, more or less, the country’s primary check for determining how well the government is doing — and in fact what the government will be doing. The survey’s findings help determine how over $400 billion in government funds is distributed each year.
But last week, the Republican-led House voted to eliminate the survey altogether, on the grounds that the government should not be butting its nose into Americans’ homes.
Building on our post from a couple of days ago, Outgoing U.S. Census Bureau director Robert Groves just posted on the Census Bureau Director's blog "A Future Without Key Social and Economic Statistics for the Country" in which he simply *blasts* the US House decision to pass the Webster-Lankford amendment to HR 5326 appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013
"This bill devastates the nation's statistical information about the status of the economy and the larger society. modern societies need current, detailed social and economic statistics. the US is losing them."
[HT to Alesia McManus at the "Save the Statistical Abstract" facebook group]