Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

Feb 22, 2011

People who turn to the Census Bureau’s latest data release in an effort to answer Sesame Street’s musical query may, in some cases, be puzzled by what they find. The detailed race, ethnicity and population counts make it easy to look up data for any block in America. But those numbers may not be completely accurate—and deliberately so.

A census block is the smallest unit of geography for which data are published, and blocks are the basis for assembling larger geographic entities such as legislative districts. Nationally, there are more than 11 million of them, housing on average 100 people. According to a Census Bureau description, blocks normally are bounded by streets, other prominent physical features or the boundaries of geographic areas. They may be as small as a city block or as sprawling as a 100-square-mile rural area.

The 2010 Census data being released on a state-by-state basis this month and next month, which will be used as the basis for redistricting, include counts down to the block level. Data for each block include counts not just of people in the six basic race groups, but also of people who checked any one of the dozens of multi-race combinations. The data also include counts for Hispanics and non-Hispanics in these dozens of race groups.

Read the full findings from Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood? on the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends Web site.

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