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ENST 215: Environmental Planning: Notes on Data

Demographic Data

The U.S. Census Bureau does two major demographic data collections which you'll make use of in this class:

(1) The Decennial Census, which happens every 10 years and is intended to count all people in the United States.

(2) The American Community Survey (ACS), which is a yearly sampling program sent out to randomly selected households. The sampling data is used to create estimated data points for the years between the Decennial Census.

What's available where?

2000: Census data is only available through the Missouri Census Data Center (MCDC)

2010: Census data (truncated) is available through the MCDC. Full 2010 Census data and 2010 ACS data is available through

2020: Some 2020 ACS data is available through MCDC. Full 2020 Census data and 2020 ACS data is available through

If you are using the Missouri Census Data Center, please note that you will see more variables in the 2000 Census reports and the 2020 ACS report than you will in the 2010 Census report. This is because of changes the Census Bureau made in how and when they collect certain data. If you find a variable in the 2000 and 2020 data but do not see it in the 2010 data as listed on the MCDC, you will need to consult the 2010 ACS through

Economic Data

The main source of your economic data should be the Economic Census. This data collection program is conducted every 5 years, in years ending with 2 and 7. The most recent Economic Census was completed in 2017. You should expect to use the following years as data points for economic data:

2017: Full 2017 Economic Census data is available through

2012: Full 2017 Economic Census data is available through

2002: Full 2002 Economic Census data is available through the 2002 Economic Census Publications

*Note on 2007 data: Due to changes in the Census Bureau websites and data products, we have not been able to locate any version of the 2007 Economic Census which is easily usable. Prof. Wilshusen is well aware of this, and it is fine for you to use data points from 2002, 2012, and 2017 for this part of the assignment. 

The Census of Agriculture may also provide useful economic data, if agriculture is prevalent in your hometown region. The Census of Agriculture is also conducted every 5 years, in years ending with 2 and 7. Please note this data source only contains county and state level data; this is a known limitation of the data. The most recent years available for the Ag Census are 2007, 2012, and 2017.

Environmental Data

Environmental data is typically the most challenging to find for this assignment. There is not one central site you can consult for environmental data; rather, it often takes strategic searching and persistence. Here are some suggestions for approaching the environmental data piece of the assignment:

(1) When picking environmental indicators, think about what you know about your hometown and surrounding area. Are you close to a major body of water (e.g., river, lake, bay, etc.)? Is your hometown region a predominantly agricultural? Are there large factories in your area? Thinking about what you know about the surrounding environment can help you determine what environmental indicators to hone in on.

(2) Environmental data may not be collected on a regular schedule, and it's entirely possible you won't be able to find data across as wide a time period (15-20 years) as you can for census data. This is okay and to be expected. 

(3) Data may refer to varying scales (e.g., regional or state). Depending on the size of your hometown, it's very possible you may not be able to find data for your specific town, but may need to look at a nearby, larger size town. 

Notes on 2020 Census & ACS

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, data collection for both the 2020 Census and 2020 ACS was impacted negatively. While the full extent of impacts on the data may still be playing out, here are some general known issues: 

(1)  The 2020 Census has known undercounts in non-white and Hispanic populations and overcounts of the non-Hispanic white and Asian populations.

(2) The 2020 ACS had the following issues:

   - The number of interviews completed in 2020 was 32% smaller than in 2019

   - The sample had significant nonresponse bias, meaning the characteristics of individuals who responded to the survey were not broadly representative of the population: respondents were more likely to be White, have a college education, live in a single-family house, and earn higher incomes.

If you are using the 2020 ACS data, make sure you are using the 5-year estimates. This data covers 2016-2020 inclusive and the data is averaged over those years, which means that some of the problems in the 2020 ACS data collection are mitigated. 

Advice: As you are collecting your demographic data, if you see a 2020 data point that seems significantly out of line with previous data points on the same topic, please talk to me (Carrie) or Prof. Wilshusen. We can help you double check your findings.