Tag Archive for data

Test your inequality IQ

The Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality

Think you know something about inequality in America? Test yourself by taking a stroll through the Stanford Center.

If you’re still learning the vocabulary, try the click-dictionary: http://www.stanford.edu/group/scspi/dictionary.html

There are graphic-based fact flashcards at http://www.stanford.edu/group/scspi/cgi-bin/facts.php (shown above) where you can hone in on the areas you’re interested in.

And finally, there is a quiz with increasing levels of difficulty.

You’ll learn even if you’re wrong. When you see your corrected answers, you’ll find a host of interesting facts and myth-busting stats.

You can start the quiz here: http://www.stanford.edu/group/scspi/cgi-bin/ezquiz_test.php

If you don’t get very far in the quiz, well, you can always go back to your reading. The center publishes a magazine that you can download here: http://www.stanford.edu/group/scspi/media_magazines.html


Make an easy chart

Comparison of four North Georgia counties / Data from US Census Bureau

Numbers can be boring when they’re piled on top of each other.

You can easily make a chart, though, if you put those numbers in Excel.

Here are the basic steps.

When you’ve gathered some comparison data, copy-paste it into a new tab in your spreadsheet.

Remove any columns or rows that are not relevant, and make sure the column headings are worded in a way that readers and viewers can understand easily.

Go to the “Insert” tab.

Select the group of cells that contain the cleaned-up data.

In the Chart section of the Insert tab, choose a format and click on it.

The chart will appear in the body of the spreadsheet. The Design tab will open with options related to charts.

If you don’t like how your chart looks, you can “Change Chart Type” on the Type section of the Design tab. You can also change the color scheme and layout under Chart Styles and Chart Layout.

Fix the wording of text areas by clicking on them. You can also change fonts and type sizes, or delete text areas.



How to measure the gap in your area


Photo by Al Clayton

Measuring the gap between the richest and poorest in your community is surprisingly easy, thanks to the Census Bureau’s American FactFinder.

Find the answers to these questions to see how this issue looks in your community:

+How does your community compare to the state and nation in its overall inequality of income?

+What percentage of the total income was earned by the top 20 percent? The top 5 percent?

+What percentage of your community is under the official poverty line? What percentage have incomes of more than $100,000?

For all three of the statistical measures described here, start from the American Fact Finder section of the US Census Bureau website: http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml

You don’t need to wait for a census once in a decade to get good, local data. All of the measures are based on the American Community Survey, or ACS. This is detailed information collected from a national survey every year, since 2006. Read more

Quick Census tables

A quick comparison of four North Georgia counties

If you need Census data about income and poverty for your county or for a select group of counties, but don’t want to download entire tables (as we show in another post), you can make your own table very quickly.

Start from http://www.census.gov/did/www/saipe/county.html and choose the year and the state.

On the next page, select one or more counties, as well as the state and US for comparison, by holding down the control / command key as you click your selections.

You can choose from several basic fields of information about poverty, such as median household income and percent in poverty.

Voila! An easy comparison that you can use to make a quick chart.


But what about the jobs?

The Recovery Act, like many economic development packages, was touted as a way to create jobs. But accurate and current figures about the number of jobs are nearly impossible to calculate except at a very local level.

The reason is that there are no cumulative reports about the number of jobs created under the stimulus. Even the quarterly reports are misleading.

From the day an award is announced, the recipients are required to report on the progress of the work and the number of jobs funded.

Read more

Stimulus search on USASpending

Here’s a step-by-step for getting data about stimulus spending in your county from USASpending.gov.

Remember that this search will only show what has been awarded from federal government agencies. The results will not include details about money that was awarded to the state and then flowed down to the county level. For the local numbers, you can use ProPublica or your state’s recovery website.

However, this site is useful for tracking other federal government contracts that are awarded directly to companies and organizations in your area. Some of those may be related to economic development, even if they were NOT funded under the Recovery Act.

You might want to look over the FAQ before using this website. This post only covers how to use the site for stimulus money; learn more about the extensive search features for other government spending by reading the FAQ.

For comparison with other sources, see the earlier post.

Start on the home page of the site and click on “Prime Award Advanced Search“.

Skip the search box on the home page. It will give you too many results because it is not designed for searches with multiple filters.

Prime awards are those that go to the main contractors and grantees. Many of these contractors and grantees then award part of their award as subcontracts or sub-grants to others, who carry out the actual work. So, for example, a “prime award” contract might go to a company in Virginia, but the sub-awards could go to companies in several states where the work is being done.

You should repeat these steps with “Sub-award Advanced Search.” Sub-awards searches give you results that you won’t find in a Prime Awards search, because they give results specifically about subcontractors or sub-grants.

The minimum amount is $25,000; sub-awards less than that will not show in the search. This limit is intended to reduce federal paperwork, but it means you would have to do extensive legwork to track those down. Also, sub-awards from state agencies will not necessarily show here, either; it depends on the reporting requirements for the prime award.

On the Advanced Search page, you’ll get lots of optional fields to fill in. Here, we’ll focus on just a few.

Read more

Measuring the stimulus

How the money moves / Recovery.gov


Under the Recovery Act, better known as the federal stimulus, the government has spent about $540 billion so far in direct grants and entitlements, and another $300 billion in tax benefits. Yet, down at the street level, many people would be hard-pressed to say where they’ve seen this spending in their community.

To report on how stimulus money affected your market area, start by getting an overview of the local data. Learning how to navigate and use the resources will help you with many kinds of reporting about how federal money is spent at the local level.

There are three major sources – two from the government, Recovery.gov and USASpending.gov, and one from a nonprofit, ProPublica.org. You can also get further information from your state’s site on stimulus spending.

ProPublica was specifically designed for ease of use by reporters and citizens. However, because each of the three sites has advantages and disadvantages, to gain accuracy and completeness you might want to use all three and compare.

We’ll do posts on each of these to show you in more detail how to get and use the numbers you need.

But keep in mind the advice of Sarah Cohen (Duke University) in her 2010 IRE webinar about the stimulus: “DON’T try to do an accounting of the money. You’ll go crazy. DON’T force everything to add up. It won’t. … DON’T depend on employment estimates – they’re really bad.”

Start with some basic measures of where and to whom that stimulus money went, and let the story ideas emerge from there:

+How much recovery money in total flowed to your state? to your county?

+Who were the biggest recipients?

+How much went to loans for businesses? How much to state agencies? How much to contractors? How much to direct assistance?

Questions about job creation are a special case, and we’ll have a post about that.

The three major sources for data about how stimulus money is being spent:

Read more

Get a lot, give a lot?

A New York Times article Jan. 20 about the much-maligned top 1 percent says that they do earn a lot, but they also give a lot:

“The top 1 percent of earners in a given year receives just under a fifth of the country’s pretax income, about double their share 30 years ago. They pay just over a fourth of all federal taxes, according to the Tax Policy Center. In 2007, they accounted for about 30 percent of philanthropic giving, according to Federal Reserve data. They received 22 percent of their income from capital gains, compared with 2 percent for everybody else.”

It was hard to find where the Federal Reserve publishes such information, but it turns out that the Fed includes charitable giving in its extensive research Read more

Using the Ruling Date

This helpful background is from the National Center for Charitable Statistics

Using the Ruling Date (RULEDATE) for Research

The IRS Business Master Files include a field (RULEDATE) indicating when registered nonprofit organizations obtained formal recognition of their tax exempt status by the IRS. (In other words, when the IRS approved their applications for exempt status.) NCCS typically uses this as a proxy for when an organization was created. However, one should understand its origins and flaws before determining how best to use it in one’s research.

Limitations are of two types:

– Nonprofit corporations — the majority of organizations — must incorporate before they register with the IRS. This could occur at more or less the same time as they file with the IRS, but may also occur a year or more earlier. (Incorporation is handled by state governments.) Moreover, some organizations begin informally without any formal legal structure. Thus, depending on one’s definition of “founding,” the ruling date may or may not be adequate as a proxy.

– Prior to the 1960s, IRS nonprofit information was maintained in paper form only and recording of ruling dates appears to be spotty.


Online sources about nonprofits

NCCS graphic for 2008

When you’re researching a nonprofit, a few simple steps can tell you a lot.

For any organization you are researching, go first to GuideStar.org, make sure their tax-exempt status has not been revoked, and look at the GuideStar summary report.

From there you can also download recent 990 forms for more details. These forms are filed instead of a tax return.

The 990 form must be filed Read more