D.I.Y. neighborhood profiles with data just released from the U.S. Census Bureau

The U.S. Census Bureau has released its first-ever five-year data roundup from its American Community Survey. What does this mean for you?

It means that for the first time since the 2000 census you can see social characteristics of an area as small as your census tract. What’s your census tract? Enter your address at the Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder website (under “select a year and program” click down to “2009 American Community Survey”) and you’ll learn your census tract and other geographic data you can plug into American Fact Finder’s data profiles page.

When you generate a profile of your immediate neighborhood (it’s fascinating, see below!),  remember that you are not looking at the house-by-house data we get from the Census every 10 years. You’re looking at the results of five years’ worth of the American Community Survey, which covers about 2 million households — or one in 65 — every year. The survey contains 21 questions about housing and 48 questions about each person in the household.

Data is released in one-year sets (for geographical areas with a population of 65,000 or more), three-year sets (for areas with a population of 20,000 or more), and now in five-year sets — the most comprehensive data on the smallest possible geographical areas with the smallest margin of error of all the datasets. It’s the five-year data set that we’re playing with today. And you really ought to too.

I plugged in the MinnPost address and generated this map:

Our census tract is 2.8 miles across. Pretty small. I was able to generate a profile of our neighborhood — here is some of what I learned:

There are an estimated 1,741 households in our tract and 79 percent of them are nonfamily households. No surprise. All you need to do is count the beer and booze bottles in the neighborhood recycling bins each week to know we’re in an area full of college kids. Of the 2,584 people estimated to be 3 years and over and enrolled in school, 94.5 percent are in college or graduate school.

Most of the data is reflective of MinnPost’s proximity to the University of Minnesota campus. Of the 2,056 males 15 years and over, 81 percent have never been married. Of the females 15 years and over, 81.5 percent have never been married.

Digging deeper

There is much digging to be done — and much of the data included in the survey speaks to more profound issues of class and race than the summary data profile above. MinnPost will be digging deep into this data and telling you what we find.

Care to join us? Dig in and share in the comments below what you learn about your community. What surprised you? What confirmed what you already knew?

Get started now at American Fact Finder.


A warning to anybody who tries this at home: Don’t mistake Germans for French Canadians. I originally wrote that our census tract was 33.6 percent people of French Canadian ancestry when in fact it is 33.6 percent German ancestry. I regret the error (and the time wasted generating trapper jokes).

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Norman Larson on 12/14/2010 - 03:42 pm.

    It’s too complicated for me. But it’s nice to see our tax dollars at work.

  2. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 12/14/2010 - 05:45 pm.

    Hannah: No, it’s not too complicated for you. This is useful census material that tells us not just population but all kinds of characteristics that are necessary for cities, state, and federal government to assess and plan for. If there are a lot of young people in an area, that might mean more schools are needed. If there are a lot of elderly, a different kind of response is needed. It helps us with figuring out economic issues, social issues, all kinds of things.
    Go back and take a look. You can get as specific as your own address and see the characteristics of your neighborhood. It’s fun. You can see how your neighborhood compares with another (in same city, in another state, whatever).
    These census characteristics are vital for us, which is why governments started taking them in the mid-1850s (you can compare across years, too). It’s fascinating.

  3. Submitted by Arvonne Fraser on 12/14/2010 - 08:14 pm.

    Fascinating! This is my census tract too. You can’t imagine how helpful this all is for our neighborhood organization. THANK YOU MINN POST!

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/14/2010 - 09:10 pm.

    I’ve given the app my zip code and address as requested, but I’ve not been able to get the “neighborhood” aspect to work. I can access all sorts of data for the City of Minneapolis, but no matter what category I’m investigating, the figures are always for the whole city.

  5. Submitted by Hillary Drake on 12/14/2010 - 10:02 pm.

    There’s no 2010 data for my census tract (St. Paul south of west seventh and west of 35E).

  6. Submitted by Howard Schneider on 12/27/2010 - 09:17 am.

    I know this comment is nearly 2 weeks late… but here goes:

    There are no detailed 2010 Census data by census tract. Only available from the 2005-2009 five-year data set.

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