Census Event Hails Data for Local Development

Christina Pena
March 11, 2016

The ability to effectively capture and use data to improve local economic development drove the discussion during the U.S. Census Bureau’s Local Employment Dynamics (LED) Partnership Workshop earlier this week in Washington, DC. Every year, the workshop brings together hundreds of representatives from state and federal agencies, and public and private organizations who share an interest in using existing data to create “new sources of economic and demographic information for policymakers and data users.” 

A few of the many highlights of the day’s discussion included remarks by Dhanurjay “DJ” Patil, the United States’ first “Chief Data Scientist,” at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. He spoke of “responsibly unleashing the power of data to benefit all Americans,” and reminded the audience of the potential to use already-existing information, such as the growing list of public data sets available at Data.gov.

Economics Professor David Mitchell of Missouri State University asked whether the presence of sports stadiums and arenas attract local job creation. In the past, researchers often found that the addition of these venues did not boost overall economic development of cities or counties. Unlike those studies, Prof. Mitchell’s project was able to use OnTheMap to examine narrower geographic areas and found that development improved in neighborhoods within a mile of new stadiums and arenas, weakened about a mile away from the venues, and rebounded again about two miles out.

Regional Economist Matt Schroeder, of the Utah Department of Workforce Services, used Job-to-Job Flows data to produce data visualizations that can help busy policymakers and employers digest job mobility trends more quickly. He also showed the steps required to create visualizations relatively easily.

WDQC Director Rachel Zinn provided commentary for the day’s concluding panel, which discussed the LED’s near future. She encouraged efforts to use better data for policy change and flagged the potential for data to help address inequities.

The Census Bureau hosted additional workshops and training sessions the next day. Visit the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics webpage for more information about these annual events.