Wolfram Data Summit: Ian O’Brien, Branch Chief of the US Census Bureau

Up next at the Wolfram Data Summit is Ian O’Brien, Branch Chief of the US Census Bureau. Here is the brief overview of his presentation, followed by my overview of the presentation:

Statistical Abstract of the United States: The Value of Data

Ian O’Brien

Branch Chief, U.S. Census Bureau

The presentation discusses the value of the Statistical Abstract to the statistical community, government, researchers, and decision makers. It will also highlight the collaboration between agencies, organizations, and private companies that make up the three hundred sources of data.

Presentation Overview:

Ian started by providing an overview of his work and the products that his branch of the Census Bureau produces. The first product is the Statistical Abstract of the United States. This is a comprehensive overview of the United States. Summary statistics include, population, vital statistics, health, income, business and foreign commerce. The second product is the State and Metropolitan Area Data Book. I actually used that data book in a past research product – great spot to find a lot of information about state/metropolitan areas.

Another database is the USA County Database, which is updated quarterly. QuickFacts is another product Ian described. QuickFacts is for the nation, states, counties and large cities (25,000+). In October, data will be released of population of 5,000 or more. Quick facts are updated and released annually. The final product is the County and City Data Book – most data is updated, but a publication has not been made in awhile.

The statistical abstract has been published since 1878 and the next release will be the 131st edition, and sadly, will be the last. Unfortunately, this might be the last version, along with all the other products Ian mentioned, the products are on the chopping block for the 2012 budget. All abstracts have been published to the website, and can find data back to 1878. Since it is published yearly, they can publish and update new data yearly. Most data is time series, to allow easy comparison and observe trends. There is also headnotes, footnotes, and source citations allow you to quickly find information. Ian also mentioned that website is 508 complaint, to make the site accessible and easy to understand for someone with a disability.

The data comes from numerous difference sources such as state, local, federal governments, non-profits, international organizations, and private sector organizations.

The statistical abstract has many useful applications Ian mentioned the following benefits:

  • Reduces the time necessary for research for data you seek
  • Wealth of statistics in one volume
  • Verified data
  • Index to search for your topic of interest
  • Methodology and source information is included
  • Publications provided by the sources
  • Introduction to source of the data for more extensive research

Ian walked the audience through the Statistical Abstract data set, USA Counties, and QuickFacts. Ian mentioned that the websites and data will still remain if the program is cut in the budget. The new data set will be released later this month. Interesting program, shame the program might end up being cut for 2012.

More from the Wolfram Data Summit:

Wolfram Data Summit: Lynn Etheredge, Director: Rapid Learning Project, George Washington University

Wolfram Data Summit: Timothy Vaughan, PatientsLikeMe

Wolfram Data Summit, Thomas Lee of Sunlight Labs: Measuring Influence

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