New Census Data: Telling Stories Block by Block

New data released by the American Community Survey (ACS) reveals information about county level data, such as income levels, educational attainment rates, and housing patterns.

As reported in the Courier-Journal, “Kentucky has 13 counties, mostly in the eastern part of the state, whose median household incomes are below $25,000 — including Owsley County, which also has the nation's smallest percentage of bachelor's degrees, new U.S. Census Bureau data shows.”

Ron Crouch, the director of research and statistics for the state’s Office of Employment and Training told the Courier-Journal, “the median income recorded in Eastern Kentucky is lower because many aren't reporting their earnings or aren't employed at all. Instead, Crouch said, many are working in an “underground economy” that relies on cash payment for odd jobs, construction and other work.”

The New York Times has developed a tool overlaying the ACS data from 2005 – 2009 on an interactive map that allows for searching by zip code, city or census tract.The resulting map reveals powerful information about local areas and shows the disparities and differences even among neighboring towns in our region.A look at the Hazard, KY area on the NYT map shows a wide swing of income changes since the 2000 Census.Some areas are practically unchanged, with only a slight loss or gain.But some of the communities surrounding Hazard have changed significantly with a 20% or more increase in household median incomes, like Bulan, Busy, Chavies and Vicco.Other communities have not been as fortunate, experiencing 20% or more swings in the opposite direction: Cornettsville, Daisy, Slemp, and Altro have household median incomes that have declined 20% or more since the 2000 Census.

Having access to this kind of information, on a very local level, helps inform decisionmaking of every kind.For communities tired of being on the declining end of the spectrum, information about the quality of life in neighboring towns can be helpful in planning strategies oriented towards reversing these trends, developing more robust local economies, and working for change block by block.

Kristin Tracz

About Kristin Tracz

Kristin Tracz served MACED’s Research and Policy team from 2009-2012 working on clean energy policy, energy efficiency programs and the Appalachian Transition Initiative. She joined MACED after finishing her Master of Environmental Management degree at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She now lives and works in Washington, DC.