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Hyperlocal Newsroom: Researching the East Village: Explanation of terms and data sources

This guide is intended to support research conducted by students at NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute who are reporting for The Local East Village.

A Note on Terminology & Definitions

The terms and concepts listed in the glossary below are meant to help you understand the general structure of the Census. For your hyperlocal reporting purposes, you will want to focus your understanding on the following:

  • Sources of data: Demographic and socioeconomic data is available from decennial censuses as well as the American Community Survey (ACS). All of the data from the 2010 Census won't be immediately available, so you may want to explore what is available from the ACS for some of your stories.

  • New York City Geographic Units: Understanding how the various NYC units fit together is key to describing the demographics of the city. See the New York City Geography page for more detailed information on neighborhoods, census tracts, and boroughs.
  • Tools for working with data: There is not just one place to access or manipulate census data. In addition to government portals, the library subscribes to several databases that can help you organize and visualize data. These tools are described and linked from the tools and resources page.

Brief Glossary

2010 Census Geographic Terms and Concepts:

Listed below are brief definitions for a few key terms that you may encounter as you utilize U.S. Census Bureau Data products. Additional glossaries you may want to consult include:

2010 Census Standard Data Products -  Descriptions

2010 Census Geographic Terms and Concepts

  • Decennial Census: The United States Census is taken every 10 years, as required by the U. S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 2. In addition to serving the original purpose of apportioning the U.S. House of Representatives, 2010 Census data will be used to make decisions effecting legislation and spending on housing, highways, hospitals, schools, assistance programs, and many more projects and programs.
  • American Community Survey: ACS data is collected every year by the Census Bureau, in order to provide more current and detailed information about American communities than is available via the decennial census. For geographic areas with populations higher than 20,000, ACS data is released in 3-year estimates, e.g., 2007-2009. New York City Community District Profiles include data from the decennial census as well as the American Community Survey.
  • Census Tract: A small, relatively permanent statistical subdivision of a county or equivalent entity (i.e., borough) that is updated by local participants prior to each decennial census. The primary purpose of census tracts is to provide a stable set of geographic units for the presentation of statistical data. Click here to see total population by census tract for each of the 5 boroughs.
  • Urban Areas: The Census Bureau employs an urban-rural classification system to identify and delineate the urban and rural areas of the nation. Within this classfication system, 2 types of urban areas are identified:
  • Urbanized Areas (UAs) of 50,000 or more people
  • Urban Clusters (UCs) of at least 2,500 and less than 50,000 people
  • Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: These are geographic entitities, defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and used by federal agencies that collect various statistics. A metro area contains a core population of 50,000 or more, while a micro area contains at least 10,000 and less than 50,000. New York City is part of the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island Metropolitan Statistical Area. Any new delineations, based on 2010 Census Data will be announced in 2013 by the OMB.
  • Public Use Microdata Area (PUMA): PUMAs are geographic areas for which the Census Bureau provides selected extracts of raw data from a small sample of census records that are screened to protect confidentiality. These extracts are referred to as Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) files.
  • P.L. 94-171 Redistricting Data: Public Law 94-171, enacted in 1975, directs the U.S. Census Bureau to provide population data to state governors and legislatures, which is then utilized to determine any congressional redistricting needs. Apportioning members of the House of Representatives among the 50 states is described by the Census Bureau as "the fundamental reason" for conducting the decennial census. Accordingly, the P.L. 94 files are the first sets of data to be released. You can see the full census data release schedule here and you can link to P.L. 94 files for New York City here.
  • Demographic Profile: Provides data for age, sex, race, Hispanic or Latino origin, household relationship, household type, group quarters population, housing occupancy, and housing tenure. Released as individual profiles for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, along with regions, divisions, the entire country, and other areas that cross state boundaries. Click here to see the demographic profile for all of New York City, along with the profiles for each borough.