A Little Holi-data

Brookings city population change map

An indicator map illustrating population growth among American cities since from 2000 to 2009

Well, it’s almost Christmas and that means new toys. My current favorite actually came out in May, but somehow escaped my attention then. Let’s pull it out of the box and see what it does.

When The Brookings Institution’s “State of Metropolitan America” report was released this summer it drew attention locally because of its revelation that the city of Atlanta’s population – unlike that of most other major cities – is slowly becoming more white.

But, spend a bit of time fiddling with the dozens of levers and switches on the report’s interactive map and data exploration page , and you’ll find plenty more about how the city is changing (and staying the same).

Some examples:


Choose the “Cities” tab, “Households and families” on the “Subject” drop-down menu, and “Living alone households” on the drop-down labeled “Indicator.”.

Looks like there might be something to all the talk about Atlanta being a great place for single people. According to Broookings’ data, nearly 46 percent of Atlanta residents lived in single-person households in 2009, the second-highest percentage of the 95 cities listed and highest in the Southeast.

Now, change the indicator drop-down to “Change in living alone households since 2000.”

The report indicates that between 2000 and 2009, the number of single-person households in the city increased by nearly 47 percent, ranking it third amontg the 95 listed. One-person households increased by about 39 percent in the Atlanta metro area in the same period, which placed at number seven of 100. So, if you’re looking to meet someone, the odds are not only in your favor,  they seem to be getting better and better.

By the way, does anyone know what’s going on in McAllen, Texas? A 113 percent increase in less than ten years – what’s that about?

Commute Times

Change the subject to “Commuting” and the indicator to “Travel time to work by household income.” Select “Less than 15 minutes” and “150% or higher of metro median income.” (The information that this combination generates is based on 2008 data so it might look somewhat different now, with so many job losses and foreclosures in the last three years.)

In 2008, about 41 percent of Atlanta workers who spent less than 15 minutes getting to work also had household incomes at or above 150 percent of the metro median of $55,848 . About 59 percent of workers who had household incomes at or below 80 percent of the median spent more than 90 minutes getting to work.  Even if happiness can’t be bought, time, in the form of living close to where you work, is very much available for the right price.

Transit Utilization

Finally, leave the subject on “Commuting,” but change the indicator to “Workers commuting by public transportation” under the “Cities” tab and you get this. Brookings’ data indicates only 12.8 percent of Atlanta workers used transit to get to work. That number was 12th in the country and first in the Southeast. It falls to 3.7 percent if the metro area is included. That’s interesting, but it’s hardly news if you’ve been here for more than a week.

But this might surprise you: Switch the indicator to “Change in share of workers commuting by public transportation since 2000.” In 2000 almost 15 percent of workers in the city used transit for their commutes according to Brookings’ data.  By 2009 that was down to 12.8 percent. While it sounds like a small change, it indicates that almost 13 percent fewer people were using transit to get to work at the end of the decade than at the beginning. The number of people working from home in the city also increased by more than 50 percent  in the same ten-year period, though. So, we don’t know how many of those newly minted non-commuters would have otherwise been carpooling, driving or strap-hanging their way to work.

Okay, enough reading the instructions.  Give it go and let me know what you find in there. If nothing else you’re sure to come across a better conversation starter for your next party than “Cold enough for you?”

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