STANDARD DEVIATIONS: Census Bureau Adds an Application to Help Child Advocates: An Easier Way to Get Child Poverty Data for School Districts

By: Dr. William P. O’Hare, President O’Hare Data and Demographic Services LLC

Standard Deviations blog posts represent the views of the author/organization, but not necessarily those of the Census Project.

On October 19, 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau unveiled a new application on its website that allows data users to more easily get child poverty data for school districts. The new application not only makes the statistical information easily available, but it also provides data visualization tools to enhance understanding of trends and patterns in the data. The new application is available on the Census Bureau’s website (https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/interactive/saipe-school-district-profiles.html).

The data provided in this application are from the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) that the Census Bureau has been producing for more than 25 years. The SAIPE data provides more timely, precise, and stable estimates than the American Community Survey data alone and is used by the U.S. Department of Education to distribute Federal Funds under the Title I program.

The data available in the new application are for each of the 13,000+ school districts in the country. In addition, each year SAIPE produces a data tool available on the SAIPE website (https://www.census.gov/data-tools/demo/saipe/#/?map_geoSelector=aa_c), which includes poverty data for:

  • All ages (for states and counties)
  • Ages 0 to 17 (for states and counties)
  • Ages 5 to 17 (children in families) (for states, counties, and school districts)
  • Ages 0 to 4 (for states only)

Data are available for individual school districts, counties, and states.

The application provides two kinds of comparative analysis. First, data are presented over time, so one can tell if child poverty is generally increasing or decreasing. Second, the poverty data for each school district are presented along with comparative data for the state and the U.S. so one can tell how child poverty for the school district of interest compares to child poverty in other areas. 

The new application addressed two expanding objectives at the Census Bureau. First the Census Bureau has been stressing transparency. To some extent this means making it easier for data user to find and understand the data produced by the Census Bureau. In particular this means helping people who are not researchers or data experts find and use the data available from the Census Bureau…This new application does both of those things. 

The second goal this new application addresses is enhanced attention to data on children. At the Census Scientific Advisory Committee meeting on September 23, the Census Bureau announced the formation of a cross-directorate team at the Census Bureau to examine issues related to the accuracy of data on children in general and young children in particular. (CAK Census Bureau Announces New Team Focused on Improving the Count of Young Children – Count All Kids). While the new application does not address accuracy issues per se, it does help child advocates and stakeholders find and use data available from the Census Bureau.

This new application should be very helpful for child advocates and for education advocates at the state and local level. The child poverty data is right on target for what local advocates often need, and the new method for making it available helps those with limited data access or statistical analysis skills. So, kudos to the Census Bureau for this new application.

  • Dr. O’Hare, a member of The Census Project Advisory Committee, is a social demographer who has spent forty years using data to increase public understanding of disadvantaged groups. For the past 25 years, he has been involved in the KIDS COUNT project at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Bill has a Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts, and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University.

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