Tax Day Round-Up

 

Money_Green WalletAs we all know, today marks one of the clearest-cut deadlines of the year: Our Federal income taxes are due. (And, if you didn’t know, you’ve got until midnight.) Yes, the IRS does grant extensions, making it more generous than many teachers I know. But, for most of us, today is it.

According to Virginia Senator Mark Warner, “Our taxpayers deserve to know how their federal funds are spent–dollar for dollar–and it is the government’s obligation to share that information in a clear, accessible way.” Acting on this conviction, Senator Warner has sponsored the Senate’s Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act along with Republican Ohio Senator Rob Portman. According to the Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, this bi-partisan bill “[allows] taxpayers to trace every dollar spent by federal agencies and help lawmakers more easily identify fraud, waste and abuse to create a more efficient government.”

A previous version of this bill passed the House with strong bipartisan support in November, and an amended version was unanimously passed by the Senate on April 10. It is projected that this updated bill will soon pass through the House, and come to the president later this spring for his approval or veto.

Under the DATA Act, taxpayers will be able to access checkbook-level data on Federal payments. Big Data–a phrase likely to conjure concerns over privacy, and often misunderstood–can help as we attempt to hold our government to higher standards of accountability.

On a day like Tax Day, though, there are plenty of other fun ways to use data, and data visualizations, to understand more about one of the two certainties in life. Here are some online resources on taxes in the US: Continue reading

As more families choose cities, governments are returning to the drawing board

Urban areas import the young and export the old, the theory goes, or went. For decades, young people have come to Virginia’s urban areas to go to university or work, often moving out again when their children require more space or education, or when they retire. But, since the mid 2000s, a demographic change has slowed the conveyor belt of movement in and out of cities. More young families are staying in Virginia’s urban areas to raise their children and enroll them in local schools, fueling the strongest population growth many of Virginia’s urban areas have experienced since the 1950s.

Though many young couples in the past have started families while they lived in urban areas, a good number would move to suburban counties before enrolling their children in school. In urban school divisions such as Arlington County and Fredericksburg, fewer than 60 percent of children born in 1999 showed up in first grade in 2005. The large number of young families moving into suburban school divisions caused many more children to enroll in first grade in counties such as Spotsylvania and Chesterfield than were born there six years earlier.2005 Ratio

Source: Virginia Department of Education Fall Count, Virginia Department of Health Live Births, tabulated by the Weldon Cooper Center

Today, many parents are staying put in urban areas, thanks to stricter mortgage regulations that make it hard for buyers to get a loan, and a difficult labor market that makes it hard for anyone to be sure of a job. One-third as many homes were sold in 2012 as in 2005 in Virginia. During the same period, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey shows that the number of Virginia families with children who live in a rented  residence has increased 15 percent.

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Turning Population Projections into Development Projections

The Weldon Cooper Center, under contract with the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC), developed and released in 2012 the most recent round of official state population projections for Virginia.  These projections, consistent with others commissioned or developed in the past by the VEC, focus primarily on trends in the number of people currently living in Virginia and expected to live in Virginia ten, twenty, and thirty years from now

It’s one thing to think about growth in terms of numbers of people, but another to think about it in spatial terms – as the growth of physical urbanized areas.  For a while now, I’ve been working on a GIS model that will do that.  I’ve posted it before on my own blog, but since then I’ve cleaned it up and made it follow our regional population projections more rigidly.

Today

Here’s a land cover raster (an image showing what primarily covers each 15Mx15M square of land) of Virginia in 2006.  All developed land is in red.  It’s a great image of the shape of our metro areas.

Current

25 Years From Now

Here is a map of what that might look like in 2040 if: Continue reading

Counting all the concubines

United States Census 2010

When you sat down to fill out the 2010 Census form, what category did you choose for your relationship to the household head? Did you choose “husband or wife”? Or maybe “stepson or stepdaughter”?  “Roommate”? Did it strike you as odd that you couldn’t choose “concubine,” or “polygamous wife”? Or, better yet, did you wonder why the form even requested your relationship status in the first place?

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A Closer Look at MSA’s and Commuting

As Hamilton noted when posting the map of updated Virginia Metropolitan Statistical Areas, the MSA’s are calculated with commuting statistics.  If more than 25% of workers in a locality commute to a nearby metropolitan area, that county is considered to be closely linked to it.  This is a useful cutoff point, but like all cutoffs, it is completely arbitrary.  I mapped five of the state’s largest MSA’s to show the degree to which their surrounding counties are dependent on them.  This is important to understand since a significant part of Virginia’s “rural” areas are becoming increasingly exurban – dependent on nearby urban economies rather than agriculture or local industries.  Again, 25% is the cutoff for inclusion in the MSA (see Hamilton’s map linked above).  That includes all workers commuting to one of the core counties of the MSA.  The “core counties” are not explicitly listed anywhere that we’ve been able to find, but there is a definition and by working backwards from the commuting numbers it’s not too hard to figure out.

DC-Nova:

DC

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Ancestry: Who do you think you are?

Largest Ancestry: 2000

Census-2000-Data-Top-US-Ancestries-by-County 2

This is one of my favorite demographic maps. It was produced by the Census Bureau to show the most commonly reported ancestry for each county in the United States in 2000. Even though the data is over 13 years old, the map remains very popular.

Since a follow-up map for 2010 has not been produced yet, I thought it would be more than worthwhile to create this map using Census American Community Survey data.

Largest Ancestry: 2010

Including Unreported

The methodologies used in making the 2000 and 2010 ancestry maps are similar, but there is one important alteration in the 2010 map. Ancestries that can be logically grouped together were combined so they might be better represented on the map. For example, Scandinavian ancestries: Norwegian, Danish, Swedish and Finnish, are very common in the Upper Midwest. Individually, they are the most popular ancestries in only a few counties, but when grouped together, Scandinavian is the most common ancestry in over 70 Upper Midwest counties.

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Virginia’s immigrants: Where do they come from and where are they now?

The foreign-born, or immigrants, comprise more than 10% of the Commonwealth’s population.  Most of them are between 25 and 44 years of age. This young cohort is highly active both in terms of production (working) and reproduction (having children). The adult foreign-born, for example, make up 15% of the Commonwealth’s workforce; and a fifth of all native-born children below the age of 18 have at least one foreign-born parent. More details are available here.

Contributions of the foreign-born population to multicultural diversity can be explored in several ways; where they come from and where they stay plays a key role in this story. A hundred years ago, most foreign-born people were from European nations; today almost 80% of immigrants to Virginia originate form Asia or Latin America. The top five countries of birth for the contemporary foreign-born population are El Salvador, India, Mexico, Philippines and Korea.  What is also of significance is where these immigrants choose to live within Virginia.

Slide2The distribution of foreign-born people among Virginia’s 11 metropolitan areas (MSAs) can be seen in the map above. Close to 70% of immigrants can be found in Northern Virginia alone, with Hampton Roads and Richmond hosting about 10% each. Among the smaller MSAs, Charlottesville leads the pack with nearly 20,000 foreign-born individuals, many of whom are students, faculty or staff at the University of Virginia.  The non-metro, mostly rural areas are home to less than 3 percent of the foreign-born.

The map below shows the percentage of each MSA population that is foreign-born. Again, Northern Virginia leads the way, with nearly a quarter of its population being immigrants. Harrisonburg and Charlottesville MSAs have a high proportion (nearly 9%) of foreign-born people, closely followed by Winchester and Richmond (7%), and Virginia Beach and Blacksburg (6%).

Slide3

The Farm Bill’s odd couple: SNAP and agriculture

In January, I spent some time discussing SNAP in Virginia here and here; at the time, there was a lot of hypothesizing about what kinds of changes were in store for the program.

In early February, the Farm Bill was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama. This bill reauthorized Federal funding to the SNAP program, and included an estimated funding reduction of about $8 billion that is projected to influence hundreds of thousands of SNAP recipients.  Virginia remained almost entirely unaffected by changes to the program, as did many other states.  For details about the changes the Agriculture Act of 2014 made to SNAP, check out this article, or this synopsis of the Farm Bill conference agreement.

Maybe you’re not all that interested in the outcome, or maybe you’re the type to review the summaries, ponder the formal text of the final act, or even pore over helpful timelines to figure it out.  Either way, you might still be wondering: why are food stamps included in an agriculture bill, in the first place? Continue reading