Census Updates, Tracking Tech to be Presented at UA Conference

  • May 16th, 2017

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Research will host its second annual Alabama State Data Center conference Thursday, May 18, on the UA campus.

Attendees from local governments, regional planning commissions and businesses throughout the state will learn about the latest data tools from the U.S. Census Bureau and get updates on the 2020 census in Alabama. The conference begins at 9:30 a.m. in room 20 of Mary Alston Hall. Registration is $50 and includes lunch.

Four speakers from the U.S. Census Bureau headquarters and the Atlanta Regional Office will discuss and present the latest census methodologies and technologies that will be used to disseminate data and track geographic boundaries and addresses.

Phillip Henderson, Alabama’s geographic information officer, will also give a presentation on the Alabama GeoHub, a new public GIS platform for the state that will debut this summer.

“CBER, through the State Data Center and this conference, will help attendees better understand their role in the 2020 Census, so that they feel confident and knowledgeable when the time comes to participate,” said Susannah Robichaux, socioeconomic analyst for UA’s Center for Business and Economic Research, known as CBER, and lead for the Alabama State Data Center.

“It doesn’t stop with this conference – we have coordinated nine information sessions throughout the state in June and are committed to connecting local governments with the Alabama GeoHub so that we can increase Local Update of Census Addresses participation and make the 2020 Census more complete and accurate.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 39.4 percent of the state registered to participate in the 2010 Local Update of Census Addresses, known as LUCA. And, of those registered, only 75.3 percent actually corrected and returned files.

The low participation can jeopardize state and federal funding for counties and cities due to potential inaccuracies in address information leading to an incomplete population count, Robichaux said. Cumulatively, inaccurate or incomplete census data can affect the number of seats in the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.

Alabama does not have a centralized office tasked with maintaining boundary and address data to send to the Census, so that burden falls on local governments. Some smaller counties and municipalities do not have the resources or workforce to keep up-to-date data.

Conference speakers will discuss changes and new features to the census web site, census.gov, LUCA’s participation options, and census testing that is underway.

Henderson will discuss GeoHub at 2:30 p.m. GeoHub will be the state’s first online census data portal for local governments to track and manage boundaries and address changes in real-time.

The Alabama Geographic Information Office is collaborating with E-911 directors and local governments to keep track of addresses. Attendees Thursday will be able to test the beta version of the portal and offer feedback that will be incorporated into the final version.

“Many counties and cities don’t have resources, like a GIS office or people who have any sort of formal training in GIS, to keep address data current on their own,” Robichaux said. “The GeoHub they’re working on will be the first one available at the state level in the United States.”

The Alabama State Data Center was formed in 1978 as a partnership between the U.S. Census Bureau and the state of Alabama with the goal of empowering data users throughout the state with understandable, accurate and timely information. CBER is the lead data center for the ASDC and coordinates the affiliate data centers throughout the state and acts as the main contact for data requests. The main emphasis of the ASDC is disseminating information and data produced by the Census Bureau to state and local governments and the data users within the Alabama community.

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.