Challenge to Hackers: Use New Software Kit to Create Apps that Benefit Cities

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Written by: Avi Bender

Since the U.S. Census Bureau launched its open API (application programming interface) in 2012, we have listened to developer feedback and continued to make improvements to the tool. Our latest update, the City Software Development Kit (City SDK), will help developers create even more powerful, data-driven apps for the public.

Next month, the Census Bureau will challenge developers to use the City SDK as part of the National Day of Civic Hacking  to address a sustainability issue facing their city. The City SDK provides better interoperability across Census Bureau demographic, economic and geographic data sets upon which data can be overlayed.

The goal of the City SDK project is to streamline the creation of open data apps for cities and communities across the country; this tool makes it easier for developers to search Census Bureau data variables and mesh different datasets together.

Through our City SDK, we are aiming to provide a user-friendly “toolbox” for civic hackers to connect local and national public data.

For the past two years, we have been engaging developers around the country to learn about how many use the API and build code to combine diverse datasets.  We have created the City SDK to make it easier for the developer community to collaborate as they harness the Census API. This is an example of how the Census Bureau, in line with the Department of Commerce, is making data more useful and accessible.

Tools already on the City SDK include code that converts latitude/longitude to FIPS (state and county) codes; the ability to request GeoJSON (an open source geographic shapefile/boundary format) right along with data from Dataweb (for mapping); a modular architecture that makes mashing up Census data with third-party data a snap; and more. The City SDK is built as an open-source project with the goal of getting direct input from developers and creating a place for improvements to be crowdsourced.

Through the City SDK, the Census Bureau will enable the development of products and solutions that rely on open data and ultimately provide tangible benefits to cities across the country. We are encouraging developers to submit the apps they are building to the Census City SDK Data Solutions Challenge on, and visit the Developers Forum to see examples of apps created with our APIs.

The challenge will open on Saturday, June 6, and will close July 31, 2015. To learn more about the challenge click here. You can become a #citySDK ambassador by hosting a National Day of Civic Hacking project in your city. Create a #citySDK event in your city and register it now!

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Growth in Small Town America

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Written by: Sarah Gibb and Rodger Johnson

Many people are nostalgic for “small town” America, where everyday life was commonly organized around a bustling Main Street lined with small shops and restaurants. While it is true that less of the nation’s population resides in small towns today compared with 50 years ago, many small towns have been reinvigorated in recent years.

The U.S. Census Bureau measures population change for small towns across the country and for all areas of general-purpose government every year. These governments include incorporated places, minor civil divisions and consolidated cities. Incorporated places are the most common of these, which include cities, towns, boroughs and villages.

There were 19,509 incorporated places across the nation in 2014, the majority of which were  small. A total of 85 percent (16,486) had populations of less than 10,000 on July 1, 2014. An additional 12 percent (2,274) had a population size between 10,000 and 50,000. The remaining 4 percent (749) had populations of 50,000 or more.

Places with populations smaller than 10,000 constituted about 9 percent of the nation’s population on April 1, 2010, and this has held steady for every year between 2010 and 2014.

Cities and towns with fewer than 10,000 people were geographically concentrated in the Midwest and the South. These regions contained 46 percent and 34 percent, respectively, of the nation’s small places.

Contrary to popular belief, many of these places are growing. Between Census Day (April 1, 2010) and July 1, 2014, the populations of small places grew by 293,000 (1 percent), with a corresponding growth in their housing stock of 1 percent as well.

If you would like to continue to explore the population estimates for cities and towns released today, or to examine other population trends in the United States, please go to For the economic side of this story, see the Census Bureau’s ZIP Code Business Patterns, which provide statistics on business establishments with small numbers of employees for specific industries, and the Economic Census Geographic Area Series, which offers statistics on the number of establishments in cities and towns, also by industry.

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One-Stop Shop for Stats on Specific Industries: Now with Even More Information

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Written by: Andrew Hait

Screenshot of industry snapshot tool

If you are a business owner, entrepreneur or business development specialist looking for key information about an industry in your local area, you are in luck.

The Census Bureau today launched an expanded version of its Industry Snapshots. These Snapshots permit you to select one of more than 1,000 detailed industries and pull up national and state-level data tables and county-level thematic maps for that industry.

Starting today, these popular Industry Snapshots include annual statistics on employer and nonemployer businesses from County Business Patterns and Nonemployer Statistics, respectively. This includes key measures such as number of establishments, employment and payroll, as well as per capita ratios using data from population estimates up to 2013. This update enhances the data previously available from the economic census, which is conducted every five years in years ending in “2” and “7.”

To access the Industry Snapshots, visit the “Finding Data” page on the Census Bureau’s Economic Census site ( From there, click on “View an Industry Snapshot” and choose the specific industry you are interested in from the menu or the search tool. Once the page for that industry appears, you can select your state to view a thematic state map by county that you can customize. A detailed table showing current and historical data for that industry in your state as well as bar and line charts is also shown. So from A (accountants’ offices) to Z (zoos and botanical gardens), Industry Snapshots now really has you covered!


Industry Snapshots is just one of several tools that use the Census Bureau’s application programming interface. The API lets developers create custom apps to reach new users and makes key statistics more accessible than ever before.

The updated Industry Snapshots are just one way the Census Bureau continues to transform the way we deliver data to the public. The Industry Snapshots provide a “one-stop shop” to the most up-to-date key statistics on any specific industry in your state, now utilizing multiple data sources.

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Moving in the USA: Domestic Migration Before and After the Recession

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Written by:
Ben Bolender, Population Estimates Branch
Peter Borsella, Net International Migration Branch
Luke Rogers, Population Estimates Branch
Sam Garrow, Population Estimates Branch

Have you ever moved? If so, was it to a new state? Was it to a new county? Where we move has a big impact on our lives. In the same way, where people move can have a big impact on the United States. In many areas, it drives population change, and it can affect things from jobs, to services, to local infrastructure like buildings and roads.

Because it’s so important, we spend a lot of time measuring this movement when we create the U.S. Census Bureau’s official population estimates. Demographers call it “domestic migration,” and we get a lot of information about it from addresses reported on other government sources like Internal Revenue Service returns and Medicare enrollment (though if you’re interested, you can find Current Population Survey and American Community Survey migration data on In 2014, about 18.9 million people moved between counties in the U.S., which is slightly down from about 19.1 million the year before.

Just as people moving around can have big impacts on social and economic events, the reverse is also true – social and economic events can influence migration. Take the Great Recession for example, which occurred from 2007 to 2009. We can see real differences in migration patterns across the country if we look at 2006 (the year before the recession) and numbers from our most recent estimates.

Below, we show two county-level maps that highlight areas with a net gain or loss of people through domestic migration in 2014. The counties that switched the net direction of their migration from 2006 to 2014 are shown in dark blue, whereas counties that gained or lost in both years are the middle blue.

Not including counties affected by Hurricane Katrina, the gaining county that shifted the most between the two years was San Diego, Calif. It lost almost 38,000 people through domestic migration in 2006. In 2014, it gained about 2,500. Broward County, Fla., also experienced a big shift, going from a loss of 27,000 to a gain of 2,400 in the same periods. From the map, we see several areas where gains were consistent in both years — Central Florida, some metropolitan counties in Texas, Northern Virginia and parts of the West. Other counties, like those in the central and northern Great Plains, seem like their gains popped up out of nowhere. While the pattern may seem unusual, it’s good to keep in mind that many of these shifts are fairly small (often less than a couple hundred either way). For example, Jackson County, Kan., changed from a loss of 24 to a gain of 126.

Map comparing net domestic migration in 2006 and 2014

On the flip side, we can look at areas that lost people through migration in 2014. The biggest shift here was in Will County, Ill., which went from a gain of 17,000 in 2006 to a loss of about 2,900 in 2014. Again, a lot of the shifts this direction are small. Only three counties’ migration numbers changed by more than 10,000 (the other two being East Baton Rouge, La., and Kern, Calif.). Net loss counties are often located in rural areas in the Northeast and Midwest, and 2014 shows a number of new counties following that trend. We do see a few big changes, though, like many Nevada counties losing people through migration, where they were gaining them just eight years before. As you can see, social and economic trends, like the recession, often go along with changes in where people move.

Map comparing net domestic migration, counties with loss in 2014

Last week, the Census Bureau released a variety of migration data from the Current Population Survey, American Community Survey, and the Survey of Income and Program Participation. See the Random Samplings blog for more information.


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Trading Spaces: Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

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Written by: Alison Fields

Most people move at some point in their life. The average American changes his or her residence 11.3 times. We are all in motion. The nation does not stand still.

Major transitions in our lives are often accompanied by a residential move. Many people wrestle with the decision. Do I stay? Do I move?

Can I afford to own a home? Does my neighborhood still feel safe? I want to live closer to my family, but will my commute be too long? Will I have more job options if I move to a new city? Is there some place I would be happier?

The answers to those questions are never concrete, altered by every action and reaction that constitutes each day in a life. We attempt to make our best guess, using the information that we have available.

Most of the time we are only thinking of how these moves affect us, our immediate family, our jobs, our finances. We do not think about how these individual migration decisions affect the larger community of service providers, schools, employers, transportation planners and governments. Each of these entities attempts to use the data available to make the best guess as to whether you will move and how that choice will affect you and them.

Just less than 12 percent of the population of the United States moves to a new residence each year. Multiply your complex decision process of whether to change residences by about 35 million – or the estimated number of movers between 2013 and 2014, according to the Current Population Survey. The result is an unfathomable combination of discrete decision processes.  Anyone considering a move knows it can be a difficult decision with lots of planning involved. The same is true for those measuring migration, as we try to meet the challenges of anticipating the who, when and where of moving.PostBlogGraphic

This week, the Census Bureau released a set of data products on geographical mobility. The products provide insight on the dynamics of residential moves and some of the reasons that people choose to, or choose not, to move. Each demonstrates the breadth of information on migration available while highlighting a unique aspect of three different surveys.

The majority of the data released this week, and the most current, come from the Current Population Survey, which has provided a measure of the nation’s yearly migration rate since 1948. Its strength is in its consistency and longevity — it measures the reasons people move and the physical distance of those moves. The American Community Survey measures annual migration and it enables examination of your community as well as progress and change at a local level. The Survey of Income and Program Participation is a longitudinal panel survey. Collecting data from the same households over several years provides a unique portrait of the true dynamics of the movement decision process. Over time, it shows what factors propel us in one direction or another.

The trading of space, or the flow between an old residence and a new residence, is another dimension of the movement process. The Census Bureau collects this type of data across these surveys and provides aggregate flows for certain geographies. Depending on your interest, you can examine moves between states, moves between counties, and later this year, moves between metropolitan areas. The Census Flows Mapper, based on American Community Survey data, is a unique visual tool that allows you to map county-to-county flows, with and without unique characteristics.

Knowing the number and some details about movers in and out of a place is part of information on the population that helps the federal government plan for emergency services following natural disasters. State and local planners use migration data for population forecasting and deciding where to put new hospitals, libraries and public schools. Private businesses use it to plan for opening new offices and stores for jobs and commerce. How you think about the decision to move affects not only you but also how well your community and your nation can serve your needs. The information you provide is critical to the health and welfare of this “nation on the move.”

Learn more about the information you provide on migration, which assists in national and local decision-making and forecasting, at In addition, if you are looking to move, the Census Bureau has an app for that. Download dwellr today to find your ideal place.

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