The just-released American Community Survey details characteristics using samples taken from about one in 10 Americans between 2005 and 2009. Tuesday’s report represented the biggest single data release in the Census Bureau’s history, with more than 11 billion individual estimates for 670,000 specific geographic locations — areas as small as several blocks.
They show a portrait of a rapidly changing America, whose young population is much more diverse than its older one.
About 48 percent of newborns last year were members of minority groups, compared with just a fifth of those over 65, a statistic that raises questions about possible generational tensions for the United States in coming decades, particularly over the cost of education and health care, said Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.
It also foreshadows a growing divide: Graduation rates for blacks and Hispanics — the overwhelming majority of all immigrants in the United States — are far below those for whites. The trend line therefore suggests that the country will be facing a growing shortage of educated Americans as global competition intensifies, particularly as other countries’ graduation levels rise.
Demographers did not agree on what the new data said about segregation trends.
William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, said his analysis of the data showed a decline in racial segregation in 61 of the top 100 metro areas.
One example is New Orleans, where segregation has declined noticeably, probably because blacks from segregated areas left the city after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Black segregation is still higher than it is for Asians and Hispanics in the United States.
“Nationally we are moving to greater integration,” Mr. Frey said.
A study by John R. Logan, a demographer at Brown University, and Brian J. Stults, a demographer at Florida State University, came to different conclusions by looking closely at neighborhoods of between 3,000 and 5,000 people. They concluded that black segregation had changed little from 2000 in the metropolitan areas, and had actually increased in areas where blacks are a smaller share of population.
Today’s New York Times offers a great interactive map of this treasure trove of census data. As UW Geography Lecturer Joe Hannah points out, “The maps allow you to zoom, pan and mouse-over for more information. There are several maps, organized in typical census categories: race and ethnicity, education, family and housing, economy. The Race and Ethnicity map is a dot map, with color-coded dots for 4 ethnicities plus “other.” The value of the dot changes from 25,000 people per dot to 100 people per dot, depending on map scale (“zoom”). Mouse-over gives summary data (percentages) by county at small map scales and by tracts at larger map scales”.
The Times also offers a capsule summary of national highs and lows in several categories, including immigration rates, commuting times, poverty rates, income levels, and education levels.