Census 2000 and demography – some quick tips and cool sites

The first part of this page is a reprint of the story ... lower down there are links to spreadsheet files, examples of pyramids and steps for getting the data.

Census 2000 is in the can and it’s accessible via the web in ways we could not have imagined (try the website http://factfinder.census.gov).  In Vermont the Center for Rural Studies and the Vermont Center for Geographic Education combine their efforts offering maps and data – explore their sites and you will find lots of illustrations of census data at a variety of spatial scales.  On the VCGI site you will want to explore the MAP CENTER, it's the tab furthest to the right on their home page. County level socio economic data are also available on-line at http://crs.uvm.edu/infobyct.htm.  

- Vermont Towns and Counties Data

Here at the alliance we have been working on making historical data for Vermont towns and counties available for easy use in the classroom.  An Excel spreadsheet is available on our website at http://academics.smcvt.edu/vtgeographic/VT_POP_DATA.xls  It is preformatted to allow you to aggregate and disaggregate the data – to look at towns within counties or to look at counties as whole.  (A big thank you to Leslie Pelch of the Vermont Center for Geographic Information for providing the original data from a much more complex GIS data layer.)  Teachers can work with the spreadsheet data to prepare worksheets; or download and save the data set and get students themselves to work with it directly.

Also in Vermont, the Center for Rural Studies and the Vermont Center for Geographic Information have combined their efforts offering maps and data on their Web sites.  Explore their sites to find lots of illustrations of census data at a variety of spatial scales.  Try http://geo-vt.uvm.edu/indicators/.  For county level socio-economic data, use http://crs.uvm.edu/infobyct.htm.  **  BOTH OF THESE SITES NOW LINK STRAIGHT TO THE VERMONT CENTER FOR GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION **

Now that you have the data, what can you do with it?  Here are some quick thoughts.  There are some interesting trends for different counties and towns which could be the opening of a discussion on local history or interesting openings for mathematics lessons on percentage change from decade to decade or the proportion of state or country population a town represents in different decades.  

Let your creativity work and send us your activities.  We will compile them and publish them on the VGA website.  Graphs or charts can be produced in Excel or by hand – we would just like to see your work.  Perhaps a class could devise a project for the State Geography Fair in April!

- Population Pyramids

Another interesting demography teaching tool is the population pyramid.  As many of you will know, pyramids provide an age-sex breakdown of the population of an area – this could be a country, a province or state, a county or even an individual town.  Some teachers like students to make pyramids by hand so we have put up on our website a black line master of a blank pyramid for your use.  This is a great way for students to construct their own histograms.  

Teachers and students who use Microsoft Excel can download a spreadsheet from our website to make pyramids automatically http://academics.smcvt.edu/vtgeographic/pyramid.xls
– This was made available by the Census Bureau and is one of many innovative spreadsheets they have developed.  Data needs to be entered by hand, but only 18 numbers are required: the nine five-year age cohorts for males and females.  The latest age-sex data can be obtained on the Web from Census 2000 for states, counties, and towns and other places.   At the end of this article the steps for obtaining data for one example are provided as well as other examples and associated charts.

Pre-made pyramids are also available on the web (try http://www.census.gov/ftp/pub/ipc/www/idbpyr.html, for example). However making them for oneself reinforces the underlying data driving the pyramid itself and, more importantly,  makes the creation an original work. 

It is fascinating for teachers and students to make the pyramids for towns and cities in Vermont but also to pick towns or cities in various parts of the United States and check out their suppositions of the shape of the pyramid.  Think about cities in Florida that are retirement communities; think about College towns; think about cities in West Texas that are predominantly Hispanic or a city like Detroit that has a high proportion of African –Americans.  I saw a cool US map with pyramids from a myriad of typical and atypical communities – it was easy to replicate the pyramids using the latest census data and the Excel spreadsheet and to add some additional communities.  Try it and report your results to us or see a combination of graphs and pyramids are part of a project for next year’s Geography Fair.

If you do not have access to the web but use e-mail and would like a copy of the historical data and/or the pyramid spreadsheet, send me an e-mail and I will send you the files back as attached files.

Finally, we have updated the lesson plan on population change in Vermont published in the Spring 2000 VGA Newsletter and also on the VGA Web site.  Find it at http://academics.smcvt. edu/vtgeographic/lesson%20plans/population_change_in_vermont.htm. 

                                                Richard Kujawa co-coordinator


Steps for getting the data:

     1.                  Go to the following site (it’s part of the Census 2000 Factfinder site but zeroes in on age-sex data)           http://factfinder.census.gov

2.                  In the left hand panel, click on DATA SETS

3.                 On the screen that follows, click on the bubble for Census 2000 Summary File 1 (SF1) 100 Percent Data and click on the Quick Tables choice in the column of choices to the right.

3.        From here, it's a matter of making the selections for geographic area and the specific table.  You will get quite quick at this once you have done it a single time.  If you choose COUNTY in the geographic type box you will be asked to choose a STATE and then a COUNTY from the list.

4.        Once your spatial choices are made (you can add multiple choices like a STATE, a COUNTY and a TOWN in the same session) you have to choose the table.  So click on NEXT and then scroll through the list of tables until you see QT-P1.  This contains the age-sex make-up for the population. [Nothing will stop you from exploring the other quick tables or any other table for that matter -- it can be fun and interesting, let us know if you do an activity you think we should share.

5.         Once this is done, click on the Show Result button and there you have it!    Use this data to construct pyramids -- you can use the manual method or enter the data into the pyramid spreadsheet discussed above.

Final note:  The Census Bureau has changed the Factfinder twice and I have updated these instructions to suit.  If they don't work, remember you are looking for table QT-P1 -- search for it with the census site search engine and you'll get there.  [AUGUST 2007:  These instructions still work exactly as noted here.]


Here are two links for the blank pyramid.  

Blank pyramid as Powerpoint slide

Blank pyramid as Adobe Acrobat file

It is necessary to have the Acrobat Reader to view/print the Adobe file.  To obtain the reader follow this link.     http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html


Here is an example of a pyramid made using the pyramid spreadsheet:


Here is a pyramid for Lawrence, KS -- the home of the University of Kansas: