Nonprofit mapping thoughts about Census 2010
Every ten years, the United States embarks on a census to count every person in the country. The 2010 census date of counting is only a couple of weeks away (April 1st, 2010) so there has been a lot of census talk in the media recently.
The US Census Bureau (at http://www.census.gov) provides an incredible amount of data freely to the public. Fellow nonprofit and community mappers know how critical the Census Bureau's boundary/feature files as well as census data itself can be to our mapping projects. The US has (obviously :) undergone a lot of changes since the last full 2000 census so a lot of us are excited about some of the new data to be released. In addition to raw data, the Census Bureau also provides several mapmaking tools and map-based data viewers: the green-shaded map at the top of this article demonstrates an automatically-generated map based on average commute times for workers in various states. (No surprise to this Chicagoan how dark green Illinois is :)
As we've tweeted before, we urge everyone to provide timely and accurate information to the Census Bureau. The census is not a conspiracy - the Census Bureau keeps their data confidential from the FBI, ICE, the IRS, and other agencies, both by law and in practice. Since the census data is used to calculate government programs, appropriations, services, and more, it's very important to make sure that your community isn't undercounted. Hopefully those of you selected for additional information requests, such as the American Community Survey, will also respond.
While reading more about the census, I came across a site - http://www.censushardtocountmaps.org - created by the City University of New York's Center for Urban Research. The Census Bureau strives for accuracy, of course, but there are a lot of circumstances that make certain populations of people harder to count, either for practical reasons or because members of those populations are somewhat likelier to view the census program with suspicion. Some of these circumstances include:
- People that do not speak the majority language of their area
- People without a high school diploma
- People that are homeless
- People that live with incomes below the poverty line
- And several more...
The Census - Hard to Count Maps application illustrates estimates of the "hard to count" factor for various regions of the United States, resulting in an overall "hard to count" index. While this is certainly interesting from a practical standpoint, many of these factors are social and economic indicators with a wide variety of important applications. Definitely an interesting map worthy of a closer examination!
Update: 3/20/2010 @ 1450cdt
I just saw a link to the "Nonprofits Count!" website - sponsored by the Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network - which offers a variety of online resources for nonprofit organizations to promote the benefits of census participation to their constituents. You can even order a free information poster to display in your NPO's lobby or community area. Visitors can also connect to websites for various state-based initiatives and get more swag, like T-shirts.