February 21, 2009

How to use data and make a story come alive

Earlier I commented on a story from Newsday about how a reporter took Census data on foreign born in the United States, put a human face to the data, and did a great story. (2007 census data compares immigrant groups on LI)

The New York Times did a story using the same basic information (Government Offers Look at Nation’s Immigrants) but does not do what Olivia Winslow did in her Newsday story.

Winslow went to the Census Bureau web site and got the information about Long Island.
The Times did nothing to localize the data

Winslow sought out a local immigrant (foreign born) to get her story as part of the larger Census story.
The New York Times only quoted some one from Brookings.

The bottom line is that the New York Times ran a story of statistics and sociology. Newsday ran a statistical story with a human face.

At the same time Newsday helped explain to its readers more about the immigrant communities in their neighborhoods. There is no sense of explanation in the Times article.

Okay, let's say The Times was writing for a national audience and Newsday for Long Island readers. A fair cop.

But, it is still The NEW YORK Times. Why was there no look at the numbers in the New York area? Or how about a look at other areas around the country.

In about 3 minutes I compared the foreign born and total populations of Illinois, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Virginia. I could take another 10 minutes and delve deep into the education, income and housing data for these states as well.

Maybe a national paper could do something like that and then tell us what it all means.

Because this is being posted first on the George Mason University j-prof group, let's look at Virginia.

In seven minutes I found the following items for the Old Dominion:
  • General population (GP): 7.7 million
  • Foreign born (FB): 794,000
  • School enrollment at the graduate college level - GP: 28.7%; FB: 51%
  • Less than high school diploma: GP: 14%; FB: 20%
  • High school diploma or equivalent: GP: 27%; FB: 22%
  • Bachelor's level of college achieved - GP: 20%; FB: 23%
  • Commute to work on public transportation - GP: 4%; FB: 7%
  • Speaks English less than well - GP: 5%; FB: 43%
  • Median household income - GP: $59,000; FB: $66,000
  • At poverty level - GP: 7.1%; FB: 7.8%
  • Owner occupied home - GP: 69%; FB: 63%
  • Rental - GP: 30%; FB: 37%
  • Rent less than 30% of income - GP: 57%; FB: 51%
  • Rent at or greater than 30% of income - GP:43; FB: 49%
And with another 5 minutes of work all this information can be obtained for Fairfax County.

So what does all this mean?

Quickly we can see that a higher percentage of foreign born use public transportation and pay more of their income to rent than the general population.

Are there political, economic and social issues to be addressed from this data?

You betcha!

For example, New York has a state-wide population of 19 million. The foreign born population is 4.2 million. A little more research

And just so you know, another 7 minutes and I had all that same data on New York.

So with 15 minutes of research I could easily draw comparisons between the general populations and foreign born in New York and Virginia.

Context becomes the big issue.

Why are foreign born doing better in Virginia than New York? Maybe it is who is moving into those areas.

Last year the largest single growing group of foreign born in Fairfax county were Indians. The largest single minority group (non-white) in Fairfax County are Asians, with Koreans as the largest nationality within that group.

And for Mason, what does this all mean?

Do the state, county and school all have to do something differently because of these numbers?

I don't know but I would like to know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Buy [url=http://buy-cialis.icr38.net/Viagra-Professional]viagra professional online[/url] here - Colossal Price cordarone online here - Ultimate Offer