CharlotteEd2

A while back, I wrote a post on the transformation of US cities over the last two decades, using Charlotte, Houston, Atlanta, and Denver as examples. That investigation, using graphs to show changes in the city from the core to the periphery, turned into a larger report that was just released today.

In order to get a better idea of what’s going on across the country, I looked at 9 variables in 66 cities, including the 50 largest metropolitan areas. You can read the report here or check out an interactive page with graphs from every city in the study. You can also compare cities across the country.

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There has been quite a bit of hype around the idea that millennials are gravitating towards city centers. Canadian professor Markus Moos calls it “youthification” and has recently put together some maps and data to prove it. But finding more hard numbers can be difficult. Is this hype only the result of a few hot spots like Brooklyn and Portlandia or is it a nationwide phenomenon? And how different is the distribution of age groups today from what it was not long ago?

Turns out that we also have a report coming out soon on demographic shifts in America’s metropolitan areas and a key part of that equation is young adults. Downtowns, it turns out, suddenly have a disproportionate share of them. They haven’t always been there. In 1990, young adults weren’t much more concentrated in the center than out in the suburbs.

This trend holds true in nearly every city across the country. I looked at the generation generally classified as “millennials” – all those born after 1980, from the age of 22 (so as to filter out most undergrads at any colleges that might be located in these metropolitan areas) all the way up to 34. I then graphed them as a proportion of the population based on their distance from the center of the city. In these graphs, the left side represents the city center and neighborhoods are graphed based on their distance from that center. The consistency of the shift is startling. Use the drop down menu to see data from different cities:

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One trend that was very noticeable in the recent population estimates for Virginia in 2014 was how much growth has slowed since 2010. While fewer people moving into the state was one cause for the slowdown, the other cause was Virginia’s declining birth rate. It is hard for any population to grow when it does not have enough births to replace deaths, as is the case in much of Virginia.

To illustrate how low birth rates are in much of Virginia, I thought it would useful to overlay a map of county and city birth rates in Virginia with the names of countries which have similar birth rates.
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Today the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center released the 2014 population estimates for Virginia’s counties and cities. The most notable trend is that Virginia’s population is growing much more slowly than in any recent decade, at an annual rate of less than 1 percent since 2010. The slowdown can be attributed to both fewer people moving into the state and a shrinking surplus of births over deaths. On the regional and local level, however, the recent slowdown has not been evenly distributed, with many parts of the state experiencing a much sharper shift into slower population growth.

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On Friday, January 9, President Obama announced America’s College Promise, his new vision for US community colleges, at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee, having released this teaser just the day before.

In its press release on the plan, the White House explained its proposal to make community college “free for everybody who’s willing to work for it.” Under this plan, community college tuition would be covered for students enrolled at least half time, with a 2.5 GPA or better. President Obama proposes that three-quarters of the cost of tuition would come from the Federal Government, while states who participate would be expected to cover the remaining quarter.

Tonight in the State of the Union address, we can expect to hear more from him on this plan–and are certain to hear a pitch for its funding. Here are some things to keep in mind when the topic comes up.

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Mollie Orshansky in 1967 (Social Security Administration Historical Archives)

Mollie Orshansky in 1967
(Social Security Administration Historical Archives)

Today, Ms. Mollie Orshanky, best know for her work on poverty, would have been 100 years old. Her research became the foundation for the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Though this measure has been criticized, it is important to remember Mollie Orshansky’s work was groundbreaking for its time.

On her birthday, it is worth pausing to remember who she was and some of the ways she shaped our understanding of poverty.

Who was Mollie Orshansky (1915-2006)?

The daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, she grew up in New York City with her five sisters.*  Although her family had a strong work ethic, her father, at times, struggled to provide for his large family. During these times, Mollie would accompany her mother as she stood in bread lines for assistance in feeding the family.

These early experiences shaped how she thought about poverty and what that economic condition meant to the people in it. When talking about her work on the poverty measure she would often remark, “If I write about the poor, I don’t need a good imagination–I have a good memory.”

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Later this week 92 percent of American adults will celebrate Christmas. Around here, we’re pretty fond of numbers, so here are a few statistics we gathered from around the web about the holiday.

Celebrating Christmas (according to the Pew Research Center)Photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Used under Creative Commons. http://www.flickr.com/photos/europedistrict/11351076073/in/photostream/

  • Half of Americans say they celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, while almost one-third say that it is a cultural holiday.
  • Four out of five non-Christians say they will celebrate Christmas, including nearly three-quarters of Buddhists and Hindus.
  • Almost three quarters of American adults say that Santa Claus visited their home when they were kids, but only one-third say they will be in a house this year that will have a visit from Santa. Younger children tend to be scared of Santa, but by about age 3 they start to enjoy the tradition. On average, kids stop believing in Santa at around age 8 or 9, according to Dr. Carol Slotterback at the University of Scranton. Many children will say they believe, even if they no longer do, for the sake of their parents or younger siblings, or so that they continue to receive presents.

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The map below was one of the more interesting maps produced after the census in 2010. It shows how the United States’ demographic center of gravity has shifted westward each census since the first in 1790. The center of population is essentially the point on which a flat, firm map of the United States would be perfectly balanced — somewhat like a seesaw — if all its residents had the same weight.

U.S Center of Population

What is this map good for?
There are a myriad of ways to map a population, but as useful as maps can be they typically contain a large number of data points which can make interpreting them difficult. The main strength of a center of population map is its simplicity, just the location of America’s center of population can reveal a good deal about the country. With some historical knowledge a map of the country’s previous centers of population can reveal a number of macro trends in U.S history. For example, in 1890 the Census Bureau announced that the western frontier had finally been settled, as the map above shows, the U.S center of population would move west much more slowly afterwards.

After looking at the United States map, I created the interactive map below of each state’s center of population over time to see if it would also show trends for the states and the country. Read Full Article →

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A couple of weeks agoSafetyNet_FoodStamps_First3 I got an email from a local food bank asking if we knew the number of people receiving SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) in a certain locality. He was trying to estimate the “number of hungry people” in his community and figured SNAP recipients were a “reasonable surrogate” for that. His assumption makes complete sense–households receiving SNAP benefits have demonstrated a lack of financial resources, forcing them to choose between food and other necessities, like utilities.

But more importantly, he was trying to demonstrate to the members of his community that even in their relatively middle-class neighborhood people struggled with food insecurity. Given this as his goal, focusing on those receiving SNAP only provided a portion of the picture. Many of the people to walk into the food bank are not eligible for SNAP, but they are no less in need.

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Living wage in VirginiaThe definition of “living wage” is difficult to nail down. In 2012, members of the University of Virginia community issued a living wage demand of $13.00 per hour for University employees, to be adjusted yearly. Amy Glasmeier, the researcher behind the MIT Living Wage Calculator, defines living wage as “just enough to pay bills for the necessities of life and not fall behind”. The Economic Policy Institute built its Family Budget Calculator to determine “the income a family needs in order to attain a secure yet modest living standard,” while the Center for Women’s Welfare Self-Sufficiency Standard calculates “the amount of income necessary to meet basic needs (including taxes) without public assistance…and without private/informal assistance”.

What is a “living wage”?

Though they may appear under different names, each of the above represents an attempt to define an hourly wage or yearly income that will allow households to meet basic needs. The effort to establish a “living wage” is made difficult because security and comfort are both subjectively, and relatively, defined.

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