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June 2012

Interactive Map: Census Response Rates


Check out Slate’s interactive map showing the 2010 Census’ response rate for every county in the contiguous United States. The map also displays whether each county voted Republican or Democrat in the 2008 elections. As Slate points out, the map highlights a gap in partisan politics around the census: Washington legislators are divided along party lines about the merits of the American Community Survey, but the general population’s census response rate is more closely related to their geographical location than their political leanings. Midwestern and East Coast counties had the highest response rate, and the South and West had lower rates.

(via Bridge Magazine)

Five Objective Truths for Craig Fahle

by Data Driven Detroit Staff

WDET host Craig Fahle has called on the public to provide “five objective truths” about Detroit to share with the world at the upcoming Association for Alternative Newsmedia convention. Data Driven Detroit is answering the call by drawing on our history of addressing misconceptions about the city.

1. Crime
Every year, the FBI publishes its Uniform Crime Report, and every year, major news publications like Forbes build Top Ten lists of the “most dangerous” cities in America. But those lists are frequently based on inconsistent methodologies, which is why different magazines frequently publish contradictory rankings. In October, D3 explored some of the many flaws in Forbes’ data journalism. Crime in Detroit is a serious problem, but Detroit, like any major city, has some neighborhoods that are safe and others that are unsafe.

2. Grocery Stores
Reports that Detroit has no places to buy fresh food within its city limits have been greatly exaggerated. Detroit has over 100 grocery stores, along with the one of the country’s oldest and largest continuously operating farmers’ markets. However, some food vendors in the city feature subpar offerings; reports of code violations abound, showing that Detroit’s healthy food access has a long way to go.

3. Literacy
There’s an often-repeated statistic that 47 percent of Detroiters are illiterate, but D3 found that figure originated in a flawed interpretation of a 1992 survey. It’s hard to say exactly how severe illiteracy is in Detroit today, but the most recent data indicates that in 2003, 12% of Wayne County residents lacked basic literacy skills.

4. Voter Engagement
Detroit has an estimated 50% turnout for national elections (compared to 61.6% for the nation as a whole), but voters 18-35 have the lowest turnout. (However, voter turnout figures in Detroit tend to underestimate turnout because voter rolls are not kept up-to-date — a major consideration in cities with steep population decline.) High-turnout voters tend to live near other high-turnout voters; voter turnout is positively correlated with owner occupancy and education, but negatively correlated with poverty.

5. Tax Foreclosure
Tax foreclosure is an exceptional problem in metropolitan Detroit, but the foreclosure crisis presents opportunities for resident engagement. In the best cases, foreclosure auctions are a way for underused properties to transition from delinquent and frequently neglectful owners to community members that can find new uses for the land.

Objective truths are a prerequisite to constructing productive, rather than sensational, narratives about Detroit. The best way to find objective truths is to begin with objective evidence – data! Data Driven Detroit is dedicated to providing residents and visitors with objective information about the city and region.

Per Capita Income Doesn’t Grow on Trees

by Morgan Robinson, Analyst

In his blog, “Per Square Mile”, Tim de Chant has been mapping income inequality by looking at local differences in tree cover. He has found that areas with higher income also have a greater density of trees. Data Driven Detroit’s analysts wanted to see if the same data could be tracked within Detroit. Our tract-level data from the 2006-2010 American Community Survey reveals the areas of greatest income inequality within Detroit. The census tract containing Palmer Woods has income per capita approximately five times greater than the tract directly across Woodward Avenue. The Indian Village neighborhood’s census tract has per capita income estimated at nearly four times that of its neighboring tract to the east.

When mapping these tracts, along with SEMCOG’s aerial imagery, differences in tree cover do appear to correspond to income disparity. Based on similar satellite imagery, Sanborn estimates that the land cover in Palmer Woods is 36.1 percent woody, while trees account for only 11.8 percent of land cover across Woodward. 33.7 percent of the land cover in Indian Village is woody, compared to 28.4 in the tract next door.


An aerial shot of tree density of Palmer Woods

An aerial shot of tree density of Indian Village


Are neighborhood trees important to you? Read more at “Per Square Mile”, explore land cover with One D: D3’s interactive mapping and profile tool, and tell us in the comments!