2005-2009 ACS release

The 2005-2009 American Community Survey (ACS) data was released this week which is super exciting for data geeks like me — it’s like a Christmas present from the Census Bureau! Already there has begun a steady stream of analysis on various facets and there will be plenty more to look forward to.

Thanks to the New York Times, you can play with maps about these trends. Some highlights that caught my eye thus far:

  • Southeast Michigan’s change in median household income is especially depressing — even in Washtenaw County, home of Ann Arbor, the median household lost 12% in income.
  • But Southeast Michigan’s concentration of households earning under $30,000 is still pretty good compared to the rest of the country.
  • Households earning over $200,000 are concentrated, predictably, in Washtenaw and Oakland counties, which also have higher bachelor’s degree attainment than anywhere else in Michigan.
  • Median monthly rent, surprisingly, has increased markedly in Wayne County, whereas it has dropped elsewhere in southeast MI. Median home value has dropped most in the white exurbs: Livingston, Oakland, Macomb; Wayne and Washtenaw still show a slight increase.

I’m most excited about the drop in metro Detroit’s black-white segregation levels.  Of the 100 biggest metros in the country, Detroit showed the 7th most improvement in this measure, at a time when 28 metros actually saw an increase in their level of segregation.  Now, Detroit is still second-most segregated in the country (after Milwaukee); but for decades Detroit’s segregation levels have remained stubbornly high, so I hope this signifies a real breakthrough for integration (i.e. in white people’s tolerance of black neighbors, since this was the major impediment).  Hat tip to Edward Vielmetti at AnnArbor.com who managed to find the source of the segregation data.

SuperGayDetroit points to a more puzzling implication of the data:  the gays in metro Detroit are not where conventional wisdom would suggest.  In fact, compared to metro areas that have strong gayborhoods, southeast Michigan gay couples are much more evenly (and thinly) distributed all over the region.  Most surprisingly, it doesn’t look like Ferndale is the gay mecca it is claimed to be, at least in terms of actual residents.

Now, I’ve done some crunching of the numbers for gay male couples in Excel. (I know, super-geeky.  I’ve never lived in a “gay mecca” of any kind, so I’m kind of obsessed with finding patterns and understanding where the gays live and why.)  The margins of error for the ACS estimates on that measure can be pretty huge, and it is possible that “married” gays living together sort themselves into different communities than single gays. For these reasons, I am hesitant to try to extrapolate too much.  But the statistics strongly suggest what I think is reasonable given what I’ve seen, which is that gay male couples have mostly decamped for Royal Oak, even while most of the gay institutions, like Just 4 Us, Affirmations, and Soho, remained back on 9 Mile in Ferndale.  (In the unlikely event anyone is interested in seeing my fancy spreadsheets or learning more about where these figures actually live on American Factfinder, leave me a comment and I can share.)

The Brookings Institution also has a few interesting announcements from their Metropolitan Policy division, so if you’re good maybe I’ll give you a post about that next week.


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