The New Berkeley Census Data–and What You Can Learn From It

By Thomas Lord

Editor’s Note: We’d like to see what Berkeley Daily Planet readers can do with this information. This is  our old Berkeley Free Press blog site, which we started before we took over the Planet. We hope to give you an opportunity to inform other readers and express your opinions more spontaneously here than the Planet’s inherited newspaper format permits.

After you read this piece from this week’s Planet, tell readers what you think the new census data tells us about what Berkeley has become.   Sign your own real name, first and last, please.   Unsigned posts will be deleted.  Your email address will be kept confidential. Thanks for participating in this experiment.

The very earliest results of the 2010 Census are starting to be published. The Census Bureau has created a handy-dandy web site to help citizens explore the data. We’re only getting the first trickle of data so far but here is a kind of “citizen’s users guide” to help people get started, along with some basic facts that might be of interest.Here’s where you’ll find the Census web site

At the end of this article are some hints about how to use that somewhat confusing web site.

Here’s a very basic fact: in 2010 the Census Bureau figures the population of Berkeley at 112,580 persons. Now we know.

The data published so far gives us some idea how to break that down into what the Census Bureau recognizes as “races” (White, Black or African American, Asian, and so forth).

Separately from the “race” question, the census data breaks things down by “ethnicity” into Hispanic or Latino and everyone else.

For those who think about racial, ethnic, or identity politics the strange lines that the census draws may seem problematic. They are! Never mind, though, they are of legal significance. Various laws rely on how the census measures “race” and “ethnicity”. For background on the topic, here is an article from Wikipedia:

The data published so far also gives us a tiny bit of insight into Berkeley’s housing stock.

The number of vacant housing units in Berkeley has increased 78% since the year 2000. What does that mean in terms of local politics? It’s hard to say for sure. Really, it’s up to readers to decide.

Here is a “getting started” guide to using the information.

We don’t promise that this is perfect but we hope it is helpful:

1) Go ahead and open up that link in a separate window. If you only use one browser window at a time, print out this article first and then just go to that link.

2) Note what a messy and confusing design it is! Don’t worry, though. It’s not so bad and it is trying to work with a messy and confusing set of data.

3) See kind of in the middle there, where it says “Quick Start”? There is a box about “topic or table name” and another about “geography (optional)”. In that geography box, type, no kidding and yes this is odd: “Berkeley city, California”.

4) Hit that “Go” button next to it.

5) What shows up next is a huge list of all census publications for Berkeley from this year and previous years. Ignore that, for now, if you aren’t comfortable with it. Instead……

6) On the left side of the web page is a box labled “Topics”. Look at that. Don’t click anything yet.

7) In that box is a line that says “Year”. That line should be between “Housing” and “Product Type”.

8) Go ahead and click on “Year”.

9) See where it says (under that) “2010″? Click on that!

10) Now the main part of the window lists the (currently) seven different bits of data published so far. You can click on those titles to see the data. Try clicking on “OCCUPANCY STATUS” and you should see that we have 46,029 occupied housing units and 3,425 vacant, according to the 2010 census. The housing unit vacancy rate is about 7% in Berkeley!

11) DO NOT HIT THE BACK BUTTON. You were done looking at that housing table, right? And you wanted to hit the browser’s “back button”? Don’t do it. Instead, click that little “BACK TO SEARCH” button on the web page.

12) Second to Last Hint: Maybe you want to compare housing to 2000? Why not? Could be interesting! In that “Topics” box, click once more on the “Year” line. This time, pick “2000″.

Now the window should show a list of both the 2010 AND the 2000 data. If you search through that, you can see the “General Housing Characteristics: 2000″ and similar tables. If you look at those items, you’ll see that in 2000, the vacancy rate was barely over 4%.

If you get stuck or confused, just start over. Go back to the very first main page and in the upper left hand corner, if the box “Your Selections” is not “empty” then click “clear all selections” and start again. The site is fancier than just the bare minimum functionality we’ve described here — but we hope that that guide will help even some novices get started.

Now, what have you learned from this information about Berkeley?



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