State Census Comparisons Yield Wealth of Data

Massachusetts boasts the highest percentage of college graduates among the states, and West Virginia has the lowest. The highest percentage of non-English speakers live in California. Hawaii claims the highest median value of owner-occupied housing, at $284,536.

Such state-by-state comparisons on demographic, housing, and economic characteristics were released Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau based on a survey of 700,000 households. The Census 2000 Supplementary Survey asked questions similar to those on the Census long form which covered everything from marital status to household plumbing. Results from the long form, collected from 19 million households, will be made public during the next two years.

The less-recognized supplementary survey, which offers an early peek at expected Census 2000 results, is a pilot program being tested in 1,203 counties across the country.

While the Census 2000 numbers will be used to redraw congressional and state legislative boundaries and to dole out $182 billion in federal dollars for health, social, and educational programs, the supplementary survey's uses are more limited.

The Department of Health and Human Services will use the data-- such as the number of working poor receiving food stamps, and the number of children in low-income households that live with both parents-- to reward states for high performance under the welfare-to-work program. Federal agencies will use the data to improve labor force estimates for states. And the Department of Education will use it to determine the number of school children with limited English proficiency. The data collection cost $27 million.

"This type of data is essential for good governance, especially during a time of rapidly changing demographics and in an information-driven economy," said Nancy Gordon, associate director for demographic programs at the Census Bureau. The data, which will be collected annually if funded by Congress, "will allow our leaders to chart the future based on current information, not information that is outdated by as much as 12 years."

Gordon said the most surprising result of the supplementary survey was race and Hispanic-origin data that showed variations from Census 2000 data. Both sets of data for the first time relied on respondents to say whether they were "one or more races." Small changes in how the question was asked resulted in different answers.

Although the survey asked about income and employment, the government uses other data to determine unemployment rates, and national income and poverty estimates. The government also recognizes the Census 2000 population count as the official one.

Among the 2000 supplementary survey's findings were:

  • The states with the highest percentage of people over 25 with a bachelor's degree or more are Massachusetts (34.9 percent), Colorado (33.4 percent), and Connecticut (33.3 percent). The lowest-ranking states were West Virginia (14.1 percent), Arkansas (16.6 percent), and Kentucky (17.2 percent). Nationally, 82 percent of people over 25 had graduated from high school, and about 25 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher. The number of college graduates nationwide rose to 25.1 percent, about 5 percent over the 1990 Census.
  • States with the greatest percentage of non-English speakers include California (39.5 percent), New Mexico (35.5 percent), and Texas (32 percent). Nationwide, 18 percent of people over age 5 spoke a language other than English at home. Of these, 60 percent spoke Spanish. The percentage of non-English speakers rose about 4 percent over the 1990 Census.
  • The highest median values of owner-occupied, one-family housing units are in Hawaii ($284,536), California ($215,597), and Massachusetts ($192,723). The median value of owner-occupied housing units nationally was $120,162.
  • For people reporting one race, 77 percent were White, 12 percent were Black or African American; 1 percent were American Indian or Alaska Native; 4 percent were Asian; less than 0.5 percent were Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and 4 percent were some other race. Two percent reported two or more races. Thirteen percent of the people in the United States were Hispanic or Latino. 

Tags: Economy