New map allows for an interesting look at Michigan communities

Synthetic data map allows for a new, more complete look at the social and economic makeup of communities.

The government collects data on households through the census and other surveys. For reasons of privacy and efficiency the Census Bureau does not release complete data sets. The data often used in community planning is based on aggregates of samples such as the American Community Survey that gives us information at the census-block level and provides information such as general income levels or what percentage of the community has an income range between $40,000 and $50,000.

A new synthetic map of several data sets has been synthesized by the Geospatial Science and Technology Program at the research institute RTI International. RTI’s mapping tool, with an attached public dataset, is a “synthetic” representation of 112.6 million individual households in the U.S. that was developed to match the household characteristics at the census block group level from the 2005-2009 American Community Survey.

The map viewer, available on RTI International’s website, allows planners to look at patterns such as educational attainment, persons in household, race, or specific patterns such as young, educated and median income. Demographic patterns become very clear when viewed at the level of household patterns. An example of this can be seen by looking at Detroit, where clusters of differing demographic nodes are easily distinguishable. This new tool allows for easy identification of talent assets that are very critical to placemaking and economic development. For more information on demographics and the role data plays in placemaking and community planning contact a Michigan State University Extension Land Use Educator.

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