Readers write in: Some of the most commonly-asked data questions here at Compass
Megan Thieme, Minnesota Compass and Wilder Research
We get a lot of our data for Compass from the U.S. Census Bureau. Most of the current Census Bureau data comes from the American Community Survey (ACS) which began in 2006, and largely replaces the old census "long form." It collects much of the same information about demographics, housing, and social and economic characteristics as the decennial census used to do, but has the advantage of being collected every year instead of every 10 years, giving us much more up-to-date information. Current information from the ACS allows us to respond much more quickly to changes and trends than we could using the decennial census alone.
As you may know, the 2010 census still gathered data about population, race and ethnicity, housing units and household relationships, but not much more.
Gathering more complete data that used to be collected in the long form every ten years is now, and will continue to be, the role of the ACS.
Another difference is that the ACS compiles data from multiple years for smaller geographies to produce more accurate estimates. For Compass, this means that at the city level, you will often see three-year estimates of cities with populations of 20,000 or more, such as the percent of foreign born by city, while at the county level, you will see estimates using data from the past five years, including this map of cost-burdened households by county.
The ACS surveys about 3 million people across the country every year – maybe even you!
We'll have new and updated data across the site shortly after the ACS data are released this fall, including updated 2010 information on poverty and homeownership gap, both indicators of the continuing impact of the recession in our communities. Data on the number of Minnesotans who lack health insurance will also be available for the first time ever for cities with populations of 20,000 or more, helping us get a better picture of health care coverage in our state than are currently available.
That 70% figure comes from a report by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce called "Help wanted: projections of jobs and education requirements through 2018." (You can see it, and dozens of other great reports in our Education and Economy & Workforce Library sections.)
Such a high percentage of jobs requiring postsecondary education certainly raises concerns about our ability to remain competitive. Currently just 63% of adults in Minnesota have any education beyond high school, and less than a third have a bachelor’s degree or higher. And while it is true that educational attainment in our state has been rising steadily and remains higher than the U.S. as a whole, a large gap in educational attainment remains between white Minnesotans and residents of color. That gap appears to have only widened since the beginning of the recession.
On a positive note, high school graduation rates have also been rising modestly throughout the last decade, which hopefully means more future workers in the higher education pipeline – although once again, the racial disparity is dramatic.
We are working hard on neighborhood profiles, which will include a variety of data from the ACS and the 2010 census, for each of the St. Paul planning districts, the Minneapolis neighborhoods, Minneapolis communities (groupings of smaller neighborhoods in Minneapolis), and the two central cities overall. We are anticipating their release within the next month. These will contain a wealth of data to better understand today's demographics, the impact of the recession at the neighborhood and community level, and changes in neighborhoods in the Twin Cities over the last 20 years.
Some of these kinds of data are already available on Compass at the regional level, such as median income and the percentage of cost-burdened households, but will be available for the first time at a much more "granular" level of geography. Other data being added to these profiles include jobs by industry sector, household composition, method of commuting to work, and more. Be sure to stay tuned and check these out in another few weeks!
Yes! Please email us and we will be happy to answer questions.
Megan Thieme is a research associate at Wilder Research who works on the Minnesota Compass project. She gathers indicator data from the U.S. Census, state departments, and other sources, and analyzes that information to give a picture of the quality of life in Minnesota's communities. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics and Hispanic Studies from Macalester College in St. Paul.