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Blog Category: Bureau of the Census

Rural and Suburban America: When One Definition is Not Enough

Graphic of three possible ways to define Peoria, Illinois

Guest blog post by Robert M. Groves, Director, U.S. Census Bureau

Cross-posted on the Census Director's blog

Last week I was pleased to speak to the Rural Philanthropy Conference. They are a set of private and community foundations that identify problems and issues facing rural America and seek to improve the areas through foundation investments. They want to do good works and see the lives of rural peoples improve. 

There was discussion about what “rural” really means. It is fair to say that rurality as a concept has for years been derived from first identifying various types of urban areas. In that sense, rural areas are residual to urban areas; everything that’s not urban is rural.

For example, looking at the area around Peoria, Illinois, illustrates the problem (see graphic). If we use the city limits of Peoria as the urban unit, then we deduce more land as rural adjacent to it. If we identify land use patterns, then we bring into a Peoria urban area more space, mainly suburban ring areas. If we use commuting patterns and other data to describe a cohesive economic center, then the rural fringe shrinks even more.

So, “urbanicity” (and thus “rurality”) is currently defined by various combinations of civil jurisdictions, population density, land use and economic notions.

2nd Quarter Performance Excellence Awards Ceremony

Early in his tenure, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke issued a challenge to the entire Commerce Department to improve service delivery to the American public and to develop measureable standards by which each of the bureaus could judge their customer service and internal performance.  It is this vision that launched the Commerce Performance Excellence program, putting the department at the cutting edge of the Administration’s efforts to increase the return on investment of government programs.  The program supports the education of staff, recognition of significant achievements and the sharing of winning strategies to help the department become more engaged in improving processes to deliver more effective and efficient services.

On May 25, 2011, Secretary Locke recognized three exemplary employee teams from the Census Bureau, NOAA, and the Economic Development Administration with Performance Excellence Awards.  For the second time in less than one year, Commerce employees were honored for successfully implementing streamlined processes to better the administration and delivery of service to the American people.

In this video, Secretary Locke, Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank and others discuss the program, the awards and why process improvement matters.

In addition to its efforts to identify and promote quality improvements by role model teams throughout Commerce, the Performance Excellence program also deploys a system of Balanced Scorecards, quarterly Performance Reviews, and team process improvements to all bureaus.  Employees can learn learn more about the Performance Excellence program and Award recipients as well as information on the Balanced Scorecard or how they can improve processes in their own office by visiting the Performance Excellence page on the Commerce Intranet.

The Fourth of July, 2011: Independence Day

Painting of signers of the Declaration of Independence

On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. Written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration is a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The birthday of the United States of America—Independence Day—is celebrated on July 4, the day the wording of the Declaration was approved by Congress.  See an image of the Declaration of Independence from the National Archives.

As always, this most American of holidays will be marked by parades, fireworks and backyard barbecues across the nation. In 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly-independent nation was 2.5 million. This year, the Department of Commerce’s Census Bureau estimate is 311.7 million.

For fascinating figures on the Fourth’s fireworks, flags, fanfares, firings (grills) and more, see the Census Bureau’s Facts for Features.

Commerce Department's Census Bureau Announces Management and Structural Reforms that will Improve Efficiency and Cut Costs

Map Depicting Current Census Bureau Regional Office Structure

Today, the Commerce Department’s U.S. Census Bureau announced the first realignment of its national field office structure in 50 years and management reforms that will improve efficiency, reduce costs and enhance data quality. The changes will take place gradually over the next 18 months and reduce the number of regional offices from 12 to six, saving an estimated $15 million to $18 million annually beginning in 2014.

Increasing efficiency, cutting waste and reforming Washington has been a priority for the Obama Administration since day one, and this consolidation supports the administration’s ongoing effort to make government more efficient, effective and accountable to the American people. It also builds on the work of Census Bureau Director Robert Groves and his management team in bringing in the 2010 Census on time and 25 percent under budget, saving nearly $1.9 billion.

For more information, please see today's announcement on the White House Web site.

Earlier this month, President Obama and Vice President Biden launched the Campaign to Cut Waste with the goal of eliminating misspent tax dollars in every agency and department across the federal government. Whether the budget is in surplus or deficit, every dollar must be spent as efficiently as possible, but in a time when so many Americans have had to cut back, our mission takes on added urgency.

Tapping Experts to Improve Federal Statistics: The Federal Economic Statistics Advisory Committee

FESAC members with Acting  Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank

Guest blog by Robert Groves, Director, U.S. Census Bureau.

Major economic statistics tell us fundamental facts about the state of the economy – where we have been and how we are doing.  They allow citizens, businesses, and governments to assess how things are going.  Examples of such statistics include Gross Domestic Product (GDP), produced by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA); U.S. international trade in goods and services, produced by the U.S. Census Bureau; and the consumer and producer price indexes, produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  While each example statistic is issued by only one statistical agency, some – such as GDP - hit the statistical “trifecta” because they are built from data from all three agencies.

Keeping those statistics up-to-date and relevant to an ever-changing economy is central to the credibility of statistical organizations such as the Census Bureau, BEA, and BLS.  It is also a significant challenge for the agencies. We use many tactics and strategies to make sure our data are current and relevant.  Getting good advice from experts in relevant fields, through advisory committees, is one of those strategies.  Hearing about both the strengths and weaknesses of our data in an open and public setting is essential to improving our data and maintaining their credibility.

I am excited that we get advice from the Federal Economic Statistics Advisory Committee (FESAC).  FESAC advises the heads of the Census Bureau and BEA – both in the Department of Commerce – as well as the Department of Labor’s BLS. FESAC’s mission -- to recommend research to address important technical problems -- aims at improving exactly complex economic statistics relying on data from not just one, but two or three of these agencies. 

U.S. Census Bureau Announces Half of U.S. Respondent Businesses Were Home-Based

Two women at a store counter

The Census Bureau today released new national-level statistics on business owners including owner’s age, education level, veteran status and primary function in the business; family-owned and home-based business status; types of customers and workers; and sources of financing for start-up, expansion or capital improvements.

The survey found that more than half (51.6 percent) of all businesses that responded to the 2007 Survey of Business Owners (SBO) were operated primarily from someone’s home in 2007. In addition, only 6.9 percent of these home-based businesses had $250,000 or more in receipts, while 57.1 percent of home-based businesses brought in less than $25,000. About 23.8 percent of employer respondent businesses and 62.9 percent of nonemployer respondent businesses were home-based.

“Most businesses are started by people who dig into their own pockets for at least some of their start-up capital,” said Census Bureau Deputy Director Thomas Mesenbourg. “This is true for both firms with employees and those without them. Furthermore, more than one in five (20.8 percent) of respondent businesses used no start-up capital at all.”       

The two data sets released today are from the 2007 Survey of Business Owners: Characteristics of Businesses: 2007 and Characteristics of Business Owners: 2007. All findings are for respondent firms only.

Numerous organizations such as the MBDA , the Small Business Administration, the National Chamber of Commerce, the Urban League, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and others use these data to track the progress of minorities and women as entrepreneurs. Release  Estimates by Gender, Race and Veteran Status

The More You Know: Key Statistics for Manufacturers and Exporters

Graphic of a spreadsheet overlaid with two charts

Economists, journalists, Wall Street executives and main street businesses as well as consumers look at a variety of economic indicators and data for information and to get a picture of how the economy is doing. The indicators above give us an idea of how our manufacturing sector is fairing in the turmoil of economic indicators that keep us on our toes every day.

Great sources for this information are right here within the Department of Commerce, through our Bureau of the Census (Business and Industry, Manufacturing) where we regularly release reports on sales, inventories, employment, job creation and capacity utilization.

Looking at today’s trade in goods and services numbers will show you a pretty good story about the state of America’s manufacturing sector. For instance, in the first four months of 2011, U.S. exports of manufacturing products increased by $56.9 billion (16.5 percent) to reach $401.4 billion up from $344.5 billion recorded in the first four months of 2010. Major growth categories by value in the first four months of 2011 include petroleum and coal products (up 66%), base chemicals (up 21%), nonferrous metal products (up 34.7%), motor vehicles (up 19%), and agricultural and construction machinery (up 25.4%).

To see where those exports are going, the International Trade Administration provides data and resources on trade statistics, including state and metro export data, profiles of exporting companies, as well as a nifty mapping tool that allows you to see the geographic reach of our exports by product or state. 

Information is golden and having the tools at your fingertips to sift through the relevant information and make sense of it yourself is a powerful advantage.

2010 Census Shows Nation’s Hispanic Population Grew Four Times Faster than the Total U.S. Population, While Overall Population is Aging

Official census taker pushing a doorbell

The U.S. Census Bureau today released two 2010 Census briefs summarizing important demographic trends on the Hispanic population and Age and Sex Composition in the United States over the past decade.

The Hispanic Population: 2010 looks at an important part of our nation’s changing ethnic diversity with a particular focus on groups of Hispanic origin, including Mexican, Dominican and Cuban. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent – four times the 9.7-percent growth of the total U.S. population. The increase was a difference of 15.2 million people and accounted for more than half of the total population increase of 27.3 million people.

Age and Sex Composition: 2010 reports on our nation’s changing age and sex composition and shows that while Americans have gotten older, the male population has grown faster than the female population over the last decade. Of the total 2010 Census population, 157.0 million people, or 50.8 percent, were female and 151.8 million, or 49.2 percent, were male. 

For more information on today’s 2010 Census releases, visit www.2010.census.gov/news.

U.S. Census Bureau Reports Housing is Top Reason People Moved Between 2009 and 2010

Graphic of pie chart

The U.S. Census Bureau reported today that among those who moved between 2009 and 2010, more than four out of 10 did so for housing-related reasons, including the desire to live in a new or better home or apartment.

Family concerns, such as a change in marital status, and employment needs were other factors cited as reason for moving in the new report, Geographical Mobility: 2010.

“Tracking mobility allows us to examine shifts in demographic trends in the population for the nation, regions and metro areas as a whole,” said David Ihrke, survey statistician in the Census Bureau's Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division.

In 2010, 37.5 million people 1 year and older in the United States had changed residences within the past year, a rate fairly similar to that in 2009. Among those who moved, 69.3 percent stayed within the same county, 16.7 percent moved to a different county in the same state, 11.5 percent moved to a different state, and 2.5 percent moved to the United States from abroad.

People in the Northeast were the least likely to move at a rate of 8.3 percent in 2010, followed by the Midwest at 11.8 percent, the South at 13.6 percent, and the West at 14.7 percent. While principal cities within metropolitan areas experienced a net loss of 2.3 million movers between 2009 and 2010, suburbs saw a net gain of 2.5 million movers. Release