A new Minnesota Compass researcher introduces all-new geographic profiles for cities and regions
Linda Sjostrom, Minnesota Compass
We’ve been busy the last few months at Minnesota Compass, and we have some exciting new tools that we hope you'll find useful and user-friendly!
Since joining the Compass team I've been working a lot on geographic profiles – we now have new 2010 Census data for our statewide and county profiles, and we've added profiles for the seven regions and for Minnesota's 52 largest cities.
Some of you are already familiar with our ‘At a glance’ county and statewide profiles, which pull data from throughout the site and put them all in one table, making it easy to see quick, at-a-glance information about a location you’re interested in. We’ve now broadened the scope of our geographic profiles, adding in tables for Minnesota's 52 most populous cities and each of its seven regions.
(Just a quick public service announcement here: You can get to any region from any page on our site by clicking on the "Regions" drop-down menu in the upper right-hand corner of the page. You can also get to them by clicking on the map of Minnesota on the homepage.)
Let me "geek out" for a moment about why we like these tables so much. Personally, I’m one of those people who actually likes to see all of the little breakdowns and collection method notes about a data set, but sometimes it’s just not practical to get into the details.
These geographic profiles give a snapshot view of some really useful data across a range of topics, and you don’t even have to open a new tab in your web browser. In each profile, you can quickly compare figures from the most recently available year to the data collected for the same measure in 2000.
For those of you out there who are more like me, and want to see all of the the nitty-gritty information, click on "view error margins" in the upper right-hand corner above the table. This will show you the 2000 data and give you the error margins as well. Because not everyone wants this level of detail, the default view hides this extra information.
These profiles contain 2010 census data. In this format, it's easy to see location- specific information about populations that have grown or shrunk in the last decade. While we generally have many more years of data elsewhere on the site, these geographic profiles show the most recent data and the 2000 data for a quick and easy comparison.
There’s quite a bit we can glean from these data. I’m a St. Paul transplant from Fridley, so let’s take those two cities as an example.
In Fridley, we can see that the percent of residents who are foreign born jumped from 7.2% in 2000 to 11.6% in the most recent figure. That’s a statistically significant growth in immigration, despite the overall population count headed on a decline.
Want to delve a little deeper? If we click on the Immigration topic header within the profile, it will bring you to that topic section. From there, we can look at this chart comparing foreign born population by city to find that Fridley ranks in at #11 in terms of how many of its residents were born outside the U.S.
Heading south to St. Paul, we can get a sense of the trends occurring in our capital city. Comparing data from 2000 to the more recent figures, we learn the percentage of residents with a bachelor's degree or higher is rising, but that the rate of adults working dropped by just over six percentage points.
These new profiles serve as a good way to compare trends over time within specific locations, but they can also be useful as another way to compare changes from region to region.
For instance, it doesn’t take long to click through the seven regional profiles, and we can see that the share of households paying 30% or more of their income for monthly housing costs has grown in each of them, including a 13.8 percentage point increase in the Central region.
Another economic trend can be seen in the county profiles; aside from Lincoln County, the percentage of residents living in poverty rose in each one – ranging from 0.5 to 8.7 percentage point increases.
By viewing these geographic profiles, we can see in one look what the strengths of an area are, as well as where it may be struggling.
These profiles use Key Measures from the Compass topic areas, which were selected by broad-based advisory groups, whose members chose the information they felt would be most useful to track over time.
For these profiles, we wanted to use indicators that were not only telling of major trends, but also were collected for the bulk of the locations in a set geography type. We also wanted to make sure we didn’t include so many data points that it became cluttered.
Some locations do list more indicators because there is more information available. For instance, there’s more information available to us regarding St. Cloud than Savage. And, there's generally more information at the regional level rather than the city level. But for the most part we kept them constant.
If there are data you think we should be including that we don’t highlight in the profiles, however, you can always feel free to contact us to let us know.
At Compass, we’re constantly on the lookout for data releases, and we are updating all the time, so that we have the best and latest data available. We now have our geographic profiles set up to update every time we import new data (which is pretty slick, if you ask me) so check back regularly to see fresh figures. Don’t forget to keep looking elsewhere on the site between those updates, too; even if the geographic profiles seem to be in a static period, chances are good that we’re updating other areas of the site – but don’t ask me to give a margin of error for that estimate.
Linda Sjostrom is a research assistant on the Minnesota Compass project. Prior to joining the Compass team, Linda worked at Wilder Research in several different capacities, including as a survey interviewer and providing data collection and project coordination assistance. Linda holds a B.A. in communication studies with an emphasis in print journalism from Hamline University in St. Paul. She has interests in a wide range of Compass research topics, with special interests in homelessness, mental health, eldercare and immigrant well-being.