Census primer for school boards

The U. S. Census Bureau conducted its 22nd 10-year census in 2000. This project - the largest peacetime effort in the history of the nation - has a lot to offer school boards. Not only does it give a fresh look at the basic facts - who we are, where we live and so on - but it offers a wealth of information and tools to help you plan.

U.S. Census Bureau resources - a well-designed site with a powerful search engine and other tools. As new information is released, it is posted on the Web site first. The Census Bureau also offers CD-ROMs, DVDs and printed summary reports.

American FactFinder - This powerful search engine allows you to view, print and download detailed data. You can create tables, reports and maps.

Information at the block level

Census 2000 allows boards and districts to look at changes in the student population and other information they need for planning. The smallest unit is the block, bounded by streets and other features. Blocks are organized into block groups and each block group is part of a census tract. Census tracts typically have about 4,000 persons, stable boundaries, and were originally designed to have relatively homogenous demographic characteristics. Tracts are grouped into counties, and counties into states.

A metropolitan area consists of a large population center of 50,000 or more with nearby communities that are socially and economically connected to the core. Incorporated places are population centers such as towns that have legally defined boundaries, powers and functions. Other geographic units include urban areas, voting districts and zip code areas.

For every person, the Census Bureau reports household relationship, sex, age, race, whether the person is of Hispanic or Latino origin and whether he or she is a homeowner or renter. About one in six persons are asked to complete a longer form that reports a variety of facts including marital status, place of birth, school enrollment and education, disability, occupation, income, and size and value of home. The one-in-six sample size is large enough to allow us to draw conclusions about the population as a whole.

With the tools provided by the Census Bureau, you can use this storehouse of information to develop a profile of your community and student population, including race and ethnic origin, age, educational level, language(s) spoken, marital status, occupation, income and much more.

Census Surveys

American Community Survey - provides information about children, families, the elderly, work, poverty, income, immigration, race and Hispanic origin, education, housing, married couples, singles, rural life and commuting patterns.

The Current Population Survey - monthly survey information on employment, earnings and other labor indicators, cross-referenced with demographic and economic information.

The Survey of Income and Program Participation - an in-depth survey of selected households over time, tracking income; insurance coverage; school attendance; and participation in programs such as subsidized housing, energy assistance and school breakfast and lunch. Childcare, child support arrangements, work history, health and other topics also are measured.

The Schools and Staffing Survey - a survey that collects information about elementary and secondary schools and their staffs. It is sent to a random sample of public and private schools, administrators, teachers and other staff, and includes information about students, staff, programs, compensation and other education topics.

The Education Finance Survey - an annual survey of public elementary and secondary finance data including revenues, expenditures, debt and assets, at the national, state and district levels.

Data Sources

The Oregon State Data Center - another resource for specialized information about your district. This federal-state cooperative program is located at Portland State University and administered by the university's Population Resource Center.

The Census Bureau District 10 Office - located in Seattle, is available to help you find the information you're looking for. You can reach that office at 1-800-233-3308.

School District Demographics - from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), provides access to school district geographic and demographic data. Compare your district with any other in Oregon or the U.S.