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December 2010

The New Year is Here! Watch Out Cause You May Lose More Than Your Sobriety

Happy New Year to all of you.  Just be Careful!

How many times have we heard stories about the dangers of New Years Eve drinking?  While I have never understood the whole New Years Eve “thing,” I recognize that many view it as an opportunity to “forget the negatives of the past year and plan for success in the new one.”  How better to forget than with a few stiff ones?

Knowing that many will see no problem getting in a car after an evening’s frivolity tends to keep the rest of us off the streets.  Not all of us however.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), many will stumble back to their car after midnight to find it missing, as New Year’s Day is the worst day of the year for auto thefts.  The NICB says, “While Americans are enjoying the holidays  and most have time off from work, we need to remember that holidays are just another day at the shop for vehicle thieves.”

While I plan to stay home tonight and keep an eye on my car, I wish all of you a safe and happy New Year.

My resolution – Better Blogs in 2011!

The Results Are In – Michigan Is Down One Again

The Census Bureau released the first results from the 2010 Census – Total population counts for the Nation and each of the States.  This release enables us to know what the distribution of Congressional representation will be for the 2012 election.  All predictions had Michigan losing one seat in Congress, and that was how it played out.  While Michigan was not the only State to lose representation (in fact, both Ohio and New York lost 2 seats each), we were the only state to lose population over the decade.  After population gains in the first half of the decade that drove us up to 10,090,000, the bottom fell out in the second half.  Michigan has been the only state to register population losses 5 years in a row.  During this period we have seen an exodus of over 400,000 people.

Michigan will enter the 2012 election cycle with their lowest representation – 14 seats – since 1920 when they had 13.  No doubt the lost seat will come from Southeast Michigan where the population loss has been greatest and Democrats have their greatest power base.

We now await 2011 when the Census Bureau begins to tell us who we are in terms of gender, age and race/ethnicity and how we distribute by community and neighborhood.  Congressional reapportionment is just the beginning.  We will also be looking to redistrict the State House and Senate, reconfigure county commissioner districts, and develop council districts in Detroit.  Couple this with the transformation of Detroit, and 2011 looks like a Great Year for Data.  We at Data Driven Detroit will be developing and delivering the numbers you need in 2011.  Please join us in the journey.

D3 Maps its way around the world

Data and Mapping” page on our website continues to drive the most traffic. In fact, our maps have been used everywhere from Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s community meetings on reinventing the city, to community meetings in Inkster about the location of social services.

Soon, Israeli high-schoolers will be studying D3's maps.

It’s always the goal of Data Driven Detroit to make data useful and accessible to everyone. Over the past two years, we have found that one of the most effective tools for explaining data is with our mapping technology. A picture not only paints a thousand words, it can also effectively explain a trend or illustrate a statistic.

It comes as no surprise that the “

But I don’t think we had any idea about the broad demand for our mapping services until we received an email from The Center for Educational Technology (CET). CET is a non-governmental organization dedicated to the advancement of education in Israel.  CET explained that it was working with the Israeli Ministry of Education to write a high school Geography textbook about “People and their Social and Cultural Environment.” The book will be published in Hebrew and in Arabic.

CET asked for permission to publish one of our maps in both the published and online versions of the book. The map shows the 2008 per capita income of Detroiters by census block group.

“The goal of showing this map,” wrote the Center for Educational Technology, “is to teach about the socio economic differences in urban regions. We are looking at the factors and reasons for those differences along with the problems difference creates and ways of coping.”

In 2010, we received several international requests for information, and even hosted urban planning students from as far away as Dresden and Toronto. In 2011, we hope to continue to serve the data and mapping needs of Detroit  and even the world, as it comes to our doorstep.

Your Facebook status could increase your insurance premiums

By now you know that colleges, universities and potential employers scour the social networks before making admission or employment decisions. But I’ll be you never guessed that what you post on Facebook could affect your insurance premiums!

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Insurers have long used blood and urine tests to assess people’s health—a costly process. Today, however, data-gathering companies have such extensive files on most U.S. consumers—online shopping details, catalog purchases, magazine subscriptions, leisure activities and information from social-networking sites—that some insurers are exploring whether data can reveal nearly as much about a person as a lab analysis of their bodily fluids.”

The data, which come from many online sources, are being aggregated and analyzed in ways that can be used for “predictive modeling” of future behaviors—including your lifespan.

For example, the British insurance agency, Aviva, wanted to estimate a person’s risk for illnesses like high blood pressure and depression. Because those diseases are closely related to lifestyle, researchers created a model where premiums could be based upon information like exercise habits and fast-food diets. If the data show that you are more likely to be a runner than a couch potato, your premiums may be lower.

What you post online could be part of that data pull. Acxiom Corp., one of the biggest data firms, told the Wall Street Journal that it acquired a limited amount of “public” information from social-networking sites to help “our clients to identify active social-media users, their favorite networks, how socially active they are versus the norm, and on what kind of fan pages they participate.”  Acxiom takes in three billion pieces of information daily as “businesses seek to ‘monetize’ information about their customers.”  

I was particularly swayed by the warning from an analyst at Celent, an insurance consulting firm. “Whether people actually realize it or not, they are significantly increasing their personal transparency (by socializing online),” said Celent’s Mike Fitzgerald. “It’s all public, and it’s electronically mineable.”

So next time, instead of posting on Facebook that you are off for an evening of beer, chips, and a greasy burger, think about how that might affect your insurance premiums. Bragging about jogging to the local market for bananas, spinach and a little salmon might be the better approach.