2010 census release continues —
Monitor changes and clear up confusion
The U.S. Census Bureau has begun releasing 2010 census data. Federal and state population data have been released, and apportionment counts have been delivered to the president. Beginning in February, and wrapping up by March 31, the Census Bureau will release demographic data to states so that state governments can start the redistricting process.
Data for cities and counties will begin to be released in May and continue through the rest of the year and beyond. (Read the release schedule.) During the wait, community decision-makers can get ready by shaping questions and discussions that may be affected by the census and by data sources, and by understanding how changes in the census will affect the data that is available.
One change in the 2010 census is significant. Remember the "long form?" This Decennial Census form asked a representative sample of Americans detailed questions about income, employment and housing that created a rich and local information base. However, the long form census was not administered in 2010; only a seven-question short census was conducted.
In place of the long form, the Census Bureau has implemented the American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is a yearly survey that analyzes five-year rolling averages. The first edition was released in December 2010. Demographers have both praise for and concern about this change.
One important concern about the ACS is that towns or local urban wards of fewer than 10,000 won’t be getting the same accurate, in-depth data they received with the Decennial Census long form. Another caution is that some questions in the ACS differ from those in the long form. So apples-to-apples comparisons from 2000-2010 may be unavailable or inaccurate. When ACS data are released for 2011, legitimate comparisons will be available.
Getting the data
As 2010 census information is rolled out, community groups can easily obtain copies of raw data online. Moreover, state and local demographers and state agencies will be "slicing and dicing" the data to highlight the issues they care most about. Other rich data sources of information about cities and counties are also available. We recommend the following resources for community leaders who want to create data-informed discussions in their communities.