Making sense of the census


William “Bill” Lutz - Contributing columnist



This is the time of the year when I turn into the proverbial kid in the candy store. Now, you may be thinking that my thoughts have turned to holiday sweets, nicely wrapped gifts or even time with the family. Of course, those are aspects of the holiday season that are wonderful, but there is something extra special this time of year. This is the time of year where the United States Census Bureau releases five-year data sets from their American Community Survey.

And yes, if your eyes haven’t glazed over already, you are probably now worried about the state of my ability to define what exactly is exciting. And on that, you may have a point. But be that as it may, there are always interesting insights to see how our communities are changing year over year.

The American Community Survey is a relatively new tool that the Census Bureau uses to track demographic information about the country. Back in the old days, the Census Bureau would only bother to capture this information once every 10 years through the traditional census. If you were one of the lucky households, you were blessed to fill out the Census Bureau’s long form. The form was about the size of a large city’s phone book that asked you questions about nearly every aspect of your life.

Well, the Census Bureau realized that some of the questions were obsolete and asking these questions once every 10 years really didn’t help. So they devised a survey which they give out to random households each year. These questions go more in depth than the decennial census and are reported on an annual basis. The Bureau gathers data from the past five years of surveys and they make their annual statistically significant best guess estimate on what life is like in every community in America — in number form, of course.

I will never hold myself out as a demographer or statistician of any real value, but if there is one piece of statistical information that those that know that work look at, it has to be Median Household Income. It’s the measure that shows what the average household brings home each year. Measured over last year, the two largest cities in our county have seen improvements. The median income in Troy is $49,618, up over 4 percent from last year. The growth in Piqua was even more impressive. This year their median income is $43,849, but that shot up over 9 percent from the previous year.

The highest Median Household Income that Troy ever reported through the survey came in 2012 where the income was $50,403. That same year, Piqua’s Median Household Income was $36,150. That was a pretty wide disparity of over $14,000. Now, just five years later it’s $3,000. These two communities are at least economically, becoming more alike.

Another important statistic that is looked at is the poverty rate. Plainly stated, this is the percentage of people in our community that are lacking the financial means to be self-sustaining in many respects. In 2017, Troy’s poverty rate stood at 11.1 percent, while the poverty rate was 16.2 percent in Piqua. These rates seem high, but are still lower than what these rates were in 2013. At that time, the Troy rate was 15.1 percent and the Piqua rate was 23.4 percent.

Even more pronounced was the amount of children in poverty. In 2013, 25.6 percent of kids in Troy lived below the poverty level while in Piqua that number was 40 percent. These sky high numbers have thankfully gone down, but are still high. Fifteen percent of kids in Troy live in Poverty while 17.4 percent of kids in Piqua live in poverty.

Perhaps even more interesting is the average age of our community. After years of going up, Troy’s average age actually dropped to 39.5, while Piqua’s nudged up to 38.7. In Troy, 6.3 percent of our residents are under age 5, which is as high as that rate has been since 2010. Perhaps we are in the midst of a “baby boom” in the City of Troy.

Overall, our community’s health seems to be getting better as time is marching on.

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William “Bill” Lutz

Contributing columnist

William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at blutz@ginghamsburg.org.

William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at blutz@ginghamsburg.org.