Census Transportation Planning Program: one more source of ACS small area data

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For the last couple decades, AASHTO and US FHWA have sponsored, and US Census Bureau has produced, a collection of special tabulations called Census Transportation Planning (CTPP). The crosstabs in that collection are different from what is in the ACS summary file (ACS base tables).

And some of those crosstabs are quite useful. You can get household-size crossed with other variables, commute-mode crossed with other variables, income, etc.

In CTPP, the units of analysis have been counties and Census transportation analysis zones (Census-TAZs). But there’s been some tug-of-war over how spatially-detailed are those Census-TAZs. Familiar story: Census Bureau is required to be strict on nondisclosure; very little wiggle room.

As more transportation planners have concluded that Census-TAZs are inadequate for forecasting and modeling, the CTPP oversight group has made some decisions about the future of CTPP products. CTPP will continue, but the smallest geographic units, after 2019, will be Block Groups.

Bottom line: CTPP may suddenly be a usable resource for fans of Block Groups.

There are some other interesting angles in the latest memo from the CTPP program office. Give it a read! CTPP Transportation Planning Announcement

Letter on administrative records data use by ACS

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Here is a letter from the steering committee, commenting on use of administrative records data as a substitute for ACS survey questions, in response to the Census Bureau’s Federal Register Notice. The letter was sent January 12, 2018.

Letter on administrative records data use by ACS.

Content changes proposed for the 2019 American Community Survey — and a call for comments

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The Census Bureau periodically reviews the content of the American Community Survey (ACS). One aspect is validating that the survey continues to prioritize policy and program information needs. Beyond that, the Bureau works to assess and improve how questions are asked — including question wording, response categories, and any instructions provided — in order to capture the most complete and accurate information.

In a notice last month, the Bureau describes final changes proposed for the 2019 American Community Survey. The specific changes and new elements have been under consideration for three years or more. And an initial batch of recommended changes was tested through the 2016 ACS content test. The complete review and revision process is documented in section II of the Census Bureau’s recent notice. ( )

For the 2019 ACS, the Bureau proposes question changes or new questions in nine sections of the survey:

  • Telephone service: a redesigned question that defines telephone service.
  • Health insurance: a new question on premiums paid and any subsidies received.
  • Journey to work: revised question wording and updating descriptions of three types of public transit.
  • Weeks worked: revised question instructions and revision of response levels.
  • Class of worker: revised question instructions, wording, and response categories.
  • Industry and occupation: revised question instructions and wording, in order to elicit better descriptions.
  • Retirement income: revised question instructions and wording, expanding scope of retirement income considered.
  • Relationship to “person 1”: new response categories to clearly distinguish opposite-sex spouses, same-sex spouses, opposite-sex partners, and same-sex partners.
  • Race and Hispanic origin: a streamlined, unified categorization is proposed.

A draft 2019 ACS questionnaire with all these changes can be found here. Some of these changes are discussed in a blog post on

At this time, the Census Bureau is seeking the final approvals for the 2019 American Community Survey — and the Bureau invites public comment. Per the Federal Register notice:

“The public is invited to comment on all questions on the ACS; however, the Census Bureau is particularly interested in comments on the wording changes to the nine ACS questions… which are proposed to be changed based on the results of the 2016 ACS Content Test.” ( )

If you wish to comment on the ACS, now is your chance. The easiest options for providing input are:

  1. emailing the Department of Commerce (, or
  2. completing the “” online comment form that is linked to the Federal Register notice. Look for the “Submit a Formal Comment” button. Please expect that the online form will limit the length of your comments.

The deadline for comments is February 12, 2018.

Webinar recording: Preparing for Local Update of Census Addresses

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The State Data Center Program hosted a webinar, November 29, 2017, on preparing for Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA), from the viewpoint of state and local governments participating in the review.

This webinar provides an overview of the LUCA process, followed by information on identifying and preparing local address sources, using the block level housing unit counts available from Census, and tools to assist with local address file development.

The presenters are Robert Scardamalia and Dale Miller. Robert Scardamalia served as New York’s Chief Demographer for over 20 years, and was a member of the SDC Steering Committee ahead of the 2000 an 2010 Censuses. Dale Miller is the Principal Planner with the Herkimer and Oneida Counties (New York) Planning Program. He has been involved with each census since 1990, and participated in his region’s LUCA review in 2000 and 2010.

The complete slidedeck from November 29 can be downloaded as a PowerPoint file.

Acknowledgements: The SDC Steering Committee thanks Robert Scardamalia and Dale Miller for delivering this presentation; Census Bureau for hosting the live webinar; and Minnesota State Demographic Center for repackaging this webinar as YouTube videos.

This webinar is the second in a series of Plan to Plan for 2020 webinars hosted by the SDC Program. The first webinar in the series is online at webex.

Building the State Data Center brand

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One of our network goals is to build awareness of the great population analysts, demographers, and data pros working at State Data Centers around the country. As opportunities arise, we’re presenting State Data Center products and materials alongside those of the Census Bureau. And we’re publicizing the SDC brand.

Government leaders are an important audience right now. States, counties and cities, tribal governments and regional agencies all have a stake in the 2020 Census, and the broader collection of Census products.

This fall, the Steering Committee has been in contact with the National Association of Regional Councils and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Both organizations wanted to hear about preparations for 2020 and partnerships between states and Census programs. We were happy to fill out their agenda, matching these organizations with state demographers who could address their national meetings. (Thank you, Lloyd Potter, Texas State Demographer, and Jeff Hardcastle, Nevada State Demographer, for representing the SDC network at these meetings!)

We are looking for similar opportunities — other national meetings and associations interested in the State Data Center network story.  If you have a connection to the program committees or boards of other national groups, please contact Todd Graham, or any SDC Steering Committee member. We want to make use of those connections.

We’re building the SDC brand in small ways as well.  At our annual training conference in 2016, we distributed a new logo for everyone’s use.  (Thank you, Montana Department of Commerce, for this in-kind contribution to the network!)  Many States are now using that logo.

The SDC Program does expect that each State Lead agency maintain a webpage identifying your role as a State Data Center, and identifying how the public can make contact and access more information. We recommend using the SDC logo alongside your own. Also, the State Lead’s webpage should include a list of Coordinating and Affiliate agencies in your State network, with contact information.

Expectations for Coordinating and Affiliate agencies are more flexible, and vary by state. SDC Coordinating and Affiliate agencies are welcome to use and publicize the SDC logo, brand, and online resources.

2018 will be a busy year for Census partners. Keep up the good work, everyone!

Letter on federal race and ethnicity categories for 2020 and beyond

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Here is a letter from the SDC steering committee to the Director of OMB, concerning federal race and ethnicity categories for 2020 and beyond. The steering committee endorses the recommendations made by the Federal Interagency Working Group, and forwarded to OMB in early 2017. OMB’s approval and implementation will affect all federal agencies that ask about race and ethnicity, as well as state and local governments that use federal categories and standards in their own data collection. This letter was sent December 16, 2017.

Comments on Race and Ethnicity Categories


States’ Preparations for the 2020 Census: Findings

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The 2020 Census is just two-and-a-half years away. The Census Bureau is setting up field operations and data capture systems, address lists, geographic data, and more. States and State Data Centers are partners in some of this preparation. States share an interest in the Census’s goal of a complete and accurate count of the nation’s population.

To assess readiness and identify needs, the State Data Center Steering Committee conducted a survey in September 2017 of states’ early-stage preparations and plans for participation in 2020 Census programs and support.  Responses were received from 66 agencies in 52 states and territories. Forty-nine of these agencies are SDC State Leads; the remaining respondents are Governor’s Liaisons to the Census or FSCPE participants in agencies separate from the SDC State Leads. (In many cases, the FSCPE participants are SDC coordinating agencies.)

This report summarizes the state’s answers and status of preparations as of September  2017. These answers will change over the next 1-2 years, particularly with respect to upcoming program activities that are expected but will not formally begin until 2018 or beyond.


Question: Does your SDC or State government have plans for 2020 Census outreach, engagement, or promotion? If so, please describe.

  • 5 states responded “No.”
  • 46 states responded “Yes” and provided details. The most frequent answers are as follows:
    • Outreach and promotion, including creation of new websites (n= 11)
    • Complete Count Committee development (10)
    • LUCA training, information sessions, and outreach (7)
    • Events – Workshops, Annual conferences (7)
    • Connections with other agencies, governments (5)
    • Connections with other organizations, i.e. nonprofits, libraries (4)
    • Still in planning: details not provided (12)
  • 4 states did not participate in the survey.
  • 1 state skipped this question on the survey.

Question: Does your SDC or State government have plans for LUCA? Choose one (or more) statements that best describes plans.

  • 35 states have agencies (including 26 SDC State Leads) registering for LUCA data review.
  • 21 states (and 21 SDC State Leads) are providing outreach and promotion, or hosting meetings.
  • 17 states (including 14 SDC State Leads) are providing technical expertise or consultation.
  • 8 states (including 5 SDC State Leads) are providing validation data resources to local LUCA participants.
  • 7 states (and 7 SDC State Leads) indicated they were considering the LUCA program and had not reached a decision at the time of survey.

Question: Does your SDC or State government plan to participate in OTHER 2020 Census preparations? If so, please describe.

  • 40 States responded “Yes.” States were invited to provide open-ended descriptions of their plans. Thus the tallies here are likely to be incomplete. The most frequent answers are as follows:
    • Outreach, promotion, and engagement (9)
    • Whatever we can/whatever is included in our MOU (7)
    • Participant Statistical Area Program (PSAP) (6)
    • Redistricting in the state (6)
    • FSCPE – Count review (6)
    • FSCPE – Group quarters (5)
    • Plan still being developed (5)

Question: Does your SDC or State government have (or plan to have) DEDICATED FUNDING for any of the 2020 Census activities discussed above?

  • 4 states answered “Yes, my SDC or agency has dedicated funding.”
  • 11 states answered “Not yet, we will request (or have requested) such funding.”
  • 12 states answered “Don’t know, or still to be determined.”
  • 25 states answered “No, our state has no dedicated budget for 2020 Census.”

Question: If you answered ‘Yes’ or ‘Not Yet’ to the previous question, please provide budget details.

  • California – $10 million
  • Massachusetts – $190,000
  • Minnesota – $190,000
  • Michigan – 2 FTE
  • North Carolina – $1 million (requested, not yet finalized)
  • Virginia – $115,000 (requested, not yet finalized)
  • Other states were in the process of requesting funding, but did not indicate an amount

Question: What are your SDC or agency’s roles in 2020 Census? Check all that apply.

  • 35 states have agencies (including 26 SDC State Leads) registering for LUCA data review
  • 19 states have agencies (including 17 SDC State Leads) that will staff state-level Complete Count Commissions
    • More states are likely to become involved; these numbers will likely rise.
  • 18 states have agencies (including 17 SDC State Leads) that will be involved in redistricting at the state-level
    • More states are likely to become involved; these numbers will likely rise.

Question: Does your SDC need any advice in preparing for 2020 Census? Please describe your greatest concern or need.

  • 21 states responded “No.”
  • 30 states responded “Yes.” The most frequent answers are as follows:
    • Help from Census Bureau – including prioritized list of needed state input, calendar outline of important programs, Complete Count Committee process and details (5)
    • What other states are doing – including their budgets, operations plans (5)
    • “All of us are new, so any advice is welcome!” (4)
    • How to create a plan with no new funding or staff (3)
    • Ideas and best practices, sharing promotional materials across SDC network (2)
    • How to improve outreach, reaching Hard to Count populations (2)
    • Coordination and resources needed for all the activities/programs (2)
    • Coordination with Island Areas Branch – everything is planned by IAB (2)
  • 4 states did not participate in the survey.
  • 1 state skipped this question on the survey.

Question: What were your SDC or agency’s roles in 2010 Census programs? Check all that apply.

  • 26 states (including 21 SDC State Leads) participated in LUCA (2007-2008).
  • 23 states (including 19 SDC States Leads) staffed Complete Count Commissions (2008-2010).
  • 16 states (including 15 SDC States Leads) participated in PSAP (2008-2009).
  • 26 states (including 25 SDC States Leads) participated in PUMA areas delineation (2011).
  • 35 states (including 33 SDC States Leads) were involved in outreach and promotion of 2010 Census.
  • 11 states (including 9 SDC States Leads) had a role in post-2010 redistricting.


This survey was administered by Metropolitan Council, a government agency in Minnesota, as a service to the Census SDC steering committee. The information collected here is public data, per the disclosure notice provided to respondents, and per Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13.

Collected data is available to SDC agencies and Census Bureau staff.

This summary report was prepared by Mallory Bateman, Utah SDC, and Todd Graham, Metropolitan Council (Minnesota).

Comments and corrections can be directed to Todd Graham, SDC Steering Committee.