The History Behind Census Geography Michael Ratcliffe Geography Division New Jersey State Data Center Affiliates Meeting New Brunswick, NJ June 19, 2019 Todays Presentation A brief look at the history behind some of the Census Bureaus geographic areas. Focus on:
History behind census geographic areas. Changes to census geographic area concepts and criteria in response to changing settlement patterns and data user needs. 2 Census Geography: The Long View The Census Bureaus geographic areas reflect the variety of ways in which Americans have organized the settlement landscape. 1790-1890, census geography was largely limited to a small number of types of legal areas. The history of changing census geography has largely been one of
increasing types and numbers of statistical geographic areas. 3 Changes to Census Geography Over the past century, the number and types of census geographic areas, and the criteria used to define areas, have changed in response to: Changes in technology (i.e., GIS, databases) providing for more efficient exchange, collection, management, and dissemination of data. Changes in user needs and expectations. Improvements in spatial resolution of data.
Changes in theoretical approaches to interpreting and understanding geographic concepts. 4 Census Geography: Key Dates Late-19th Century: introduction of small statistical areas, such as enumeration districts, sanitary districts. Tabulation of data by city ward. 1910: Introduction of census tracts (8 cities). 1910 1940: Industrial districts, metropolitan districts. 1930: Census tract coverage expanded to 10 additional large cities. 1940: block-level data for cities of 50,000 or more population. Unincorporated
communities supplementary report. 1950: Introduction of standard metropolitan areas, urbanized areas, census designated places (CDPs), census county divisions (CCDs). 1990: Nationwide coverage for blocks; census tracts/block numbering areas. 2000: ZIP Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTAs), urban clusters, micropolitan statistical areas. Census tracts nationwide. 5 Westward migration of American political geography: Counties and County Subdivisions
6 Chesapeake Counties and New England Towns and a Middle Path in the Mid-Atlantic Our basic units of local political geography largely stem from three colonial hearths: The Chesapeake Region of Maryland and Virginia New England Pennsylvania The political landscape in the Chesapeake formed around counties.
In New England, the basic unit of local government was the town/township. In Pennsylvania, we see a mix of counties, cities, and townships. 7 As Americans moved west, they tended to take their political geography preferences with them. Source: Donald W. Meinig. 1993. The Shaping of America: Continental America, 1800-1865. Yale University Press. 8
9 9 Illinois County Subdivisions Non-governmental precincts in 17 counties, mostly in the southern half of the state, areas settled historically by migrants from the South. 10 Filling in the gaps:
Census Designated Places 11 12 Unincorporated/Census Designated Places 1940: Supplementary report for unincorporated places. Must have population of at least 500. 1950: unincorporated places defined only outside urbanized areas. Must have a population of at least 1,000. 1960 through 1990: defined inside urbanized areas, with the
minimum population threshold declining from 10,000 to 5,000, then to 2,500 during this period. Outside urbanized areas, population of at least 1,000. 2000 to present: no minimum population threshold. Improve access to data for small, unincorporated communities. 13 Census Designated Places In states in which communities tend not to incorporate as cities, towns, or villages, CDPs
are critical for providing place-level data. 14 Providing data for small unincorporated communities: Cedarville CDP (population, 776) and Fairton CDP (population, 1,264)
15 Incorporated Places, Townships, and Census Designated Places 16 Urban and Metropolitan Areas: Defining the structural and functional landscape
17 Urban/Rural and Metropolitan The history of the urban/rural and metropolitan classifications has been one of response to: Changes to settlement patterns in and around cities; i.e., increasing suburbanization. Changes in theoretical approaches to interpreting and understanding the growth of urban areas. Improved technology (i.e., GIS, digital databases) making it easier to manage large amounts of data. Increased spatial resolution of statistical and geospatial data.
18 Urban Population as a Percentage of Total US Population, 1790-2010 90 80 70 60
50 40 30 20 10 0 1790
1800 1810 1820 1830 1840 1850
1860 1870 19 1880 1890 1900
1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960
1970 1980 1990 2000 1910: 2,500 threshold adopted. 1950: urbanized areas of 50,000+ adopted. 2000: urban clusters of 2,500-49,999 adopted.
2010 Industrial Districts (1905) and Metropolitan Districts (1910-1940) 20 Urbanized Areas, 1950-1990 Adoption of concept to account for increased suburban growth around
large cities. Adherence to place boundaries. Delineated manually/interactively. Delineation built from previous decades boundary. 21 21
Changes to the Urban Area Concept and Criteria for Census 2000 Urban clusters adopted, extending the urbanized area concept to smaller places. Place boundaries not considered when delineating areas. Automated delineation to improve efficiency
and consistency. 22 22 23 Metropolitan Areas: 1950-2013 Though the names have changed, the concept remained (essentially) the same: Standard Metropolitan Areas
Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas, Standard Consolidated Statistical Areas Metropolitan Statistical Areas, Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Areas, Primary Metropolitan Statistical Areas Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas, Combined Statistical Areas, Metropolitan Divisions 24 Standard Metropolitan Areas: 1950
25 Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: 2017 26 Defining Rural and Rurality Conceptual and Definitional Issues to Consider
What is rural? What characterizes rurality? Low population density. Small numbers of people. Low levels of urbanization/urban population. Distance from/proximity to [larger] urban centers. Isolation and remoteness. Is 2,500 still an appropriate minimum population for urban areas? 27 Concluding Thoughts Census Bureau geography reflects the variety of geographic areas that
exist and vary across the nation. This variety has some basis in historical settlement patterns, but also reflects changing perceptions and data user needs. Understanding the history behind Census Bureau geography helps us to understand the reasons for the variety, and adds richness to statistical data. 28 Questions? Comments? Contact information:
Michael Ratcliffe Geography Division U.S. Census Bureau 301-763-8977 [email protected] 29 29
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