The Census Bureau at the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting

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Michael Ratcliffe
Assistant Division Chief, Geography Division

Geography is central to the work of the Census Bureau, providing the framework for survey design, sample selection, data collection, tabulation, and dissemination.  Geography provides meaning and context to statistical data.

Given the diversity of our population, our economic activities, and our geographic areas, use of the latest and best geographic methodologies is critical to the Census Bureau’s ability to serve as the leading provider of statistical and geospatial data.  Our geographic area concepts, information, and statistical data must keep pace with the needs of the researchers and analysts who work to understand the changing distribution and characteristics of our people, places and economy.

February’s recent annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers brought together more than 8,600 geographers and other social scientists. Many of those attending rely on Census Bureau geographical and statistical information as a core component of their work.

Census Bureau staff delivered presentations or served as panelists in 24 sessions. Researchers from our Population division discussed methodologies to estimate, map, and visualize global subnational demographic data, and the use of those data to address issues affecting population groups in various countries.

In response to the increasing interest in place-based analysis and planning and the importance of understanding how our census geographic concepts relate to the perceptions and expectations of researchers and data users, Geography division researchers organized three sessions focused on identifying, articulating, and defining places and communities.  Other presentations explored new techniques for assessing the quality of spatial data and the measurement of job accessibility.

Geographers have long understood the power of maps and other tools for visualizing data.  The Census Bureau shares this vision and has a rich history as an innovator of methods and techniques for visualizing statistical data. Census Bureau director Dr. Robert Groves delivered the keynote address in which he discussed Census Bureau efforts to develop new ways to visualize and disseminate data using the latest technologies.

For more information about the Census Bureau’s activities at the 2012 annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers, see our website:

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