Demographics Demystified


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Find the demographics you need for a business plan or grant proposal - fast! Thanks to some awesome tools from the US Census Bureau, the BCDCOG, and the CCPL Business Center's online library, you can find a wide range of local, state, and national figures in a snap.

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  • So you’re about to start a business selling to consumers and you want to know more about the people who live in our area. Or you’re writing a grant for your nonprofit, and you have to explain what our community is like to an outsider.
    For these kinds of reasona and more, demographics are what you need. Why?
  • Demographics will help you be sure you understand your community. That way you have the best chance of selling the right thing to the right people to make money. That way you can be sure you’re written the best, most convincing grant proposal to try to get the money you need to make a difference in the lives of the community you’re serving.
  • But who studies demography in school? Have you even *heard* that word before? How can you get started when you’re not even sure where to begin? If you wait until you need the information, it’s really easy to get completely overwhelmed.
    It beats doing it the other way. Let me tell you a story….
    -needed information about the service population for every branch in the library system.
    -hadn’t been updated in a long time
    -demography students did it last time
    -I was lucky: a library school project to write a new service proposal made us find local demographics, so I had something of a clue where to look. Also, demographics comes up enough for me as a business librarian, it wasn’t so bad. But it was still unpleasant!
  • Some things to think about getting straight before you have a project to do.
    Terms – familiarize yourself with some basic geographical terms and statistical terms. The main examples I can think of: difference between Mean and Median (statistics). What’s a Census Tract? What’s a Census Block Group? If you never took a statistics class in college, get some practice reading tables full of numbers. Practice with the sources we’ll look at today. Always search your source for a Help, FAQ, Definitions, Introduction, About section. Most reference resources explain themselves in detail; just remember to look for them. Google this: define: block group as a quick & dirty lookup if all else fails
    Which Sources are out there – you’ll know 6 by the end of this presentation. Don’t stop there. Look around for others specific to your industry or service population or area. Check with professional & trade associations. You may already know of an institution or organization that studies what you’re interested in. Ask for their recommendations.
    Finding Help – I’ll tell you who to call for help with each source. Keep in mind that people made all these numbers. Remember to look for some kind of note on a statistic about it’s source. Frequently they have more numbers, or are happy to talk to you about themselves…I mean, what they do for a living.
  • Market Research can be expensive if you pay someone to do it for you, but why do it when the Library’s resources are here?
    Want a more in-depth profile that’s drop dead easy? Take a few minutes to use DemographicsNow. This database can help you pinpoint who will be most likely to buy your product, where in town will you find them, and where you might want to open a new location.
    You’ll be amazed at what you can find out. This is your tax dollars hard at work!
  • Berkeley Charleston Dorchester Council of Governments has some great resources to help you. They are the best contact I know locally for GIS information. (GIS = geographic information systems. Think of this as smart people marrying maps & data for users like us). They have other useful data like traffic studies, but you should check out their Binary Bus mapping tool.
    Questions about it go to Haroun Rashid. His contact info is on this web page.
  • The Census Bureau are the big guns. This is where you are most likely to get overwhelmed from the sheer size of what they have to offer. I’ve worked with Census data more in the past 4 years than I imagined, and I still get lost, frustrated & confused.
    Keep these things in mind:
    It’s way more than the Decennial Census (the one they do every 10 years. Genealogists to redistricting efforts want this data.)
    Another major thing they do: American Community Survey = every 5 years. Replaced the Census Long Form, that asked how many miles you lived from work, and all kinds of stuff.
    They also collect an Economic Census every 5 years studying the economy.
    The website is old, it’s big, it can be confusing. Don’t assume you’ll find your way back to where you were 10 minutes ago. Keep good records of where you went on this site.
    The point of FactFinder is to get you data without you having to know about every single survey they produce. It’s not perfect, they have plans to change it, but it makes the demographics easier to find than if it didn’t exist.
  • They do provide some help on using their products, both tutorials & phone & email. My advice: do the tutorials, search their FAQ, then contact them.
  • SC Stat Abstract
    US Stat Abstract
    These are books with a little data on all kinds of topics. Usually state by state or national information, but it can get you some data quickly, and the source notes on the tables can help you figure out who to contact or the name of the report to Google to see if you can find more detailed data. This might actually be the best place to start, though we’re talking about them last today!
  • So now you know some of the basic concepts you’ll need to know to do basic demographics research, and you’ve learned about the essential resources you should use. So now it’s up to you. Practice! If you learn these basics about demographics before you’re under all that time & performance pressure, you’ll have the grounding you need to do the research when you have to….
  • And you’ll be your organization’s hero when it counts!
  • Have a question for me? My business card is on the table. I’m not a demographer, but I’m happy to try to help you puzzle something out.
    Also, our Reference staff is here whenever we’re open. If they can’t answer your question about a business/nonprofit related topic, they’ll consult with myself and my colleague John, and one of us will get back to you.
  • Demographics Demystified

    1. 1. Demographics Demystified
    2. 2. demographics are important…
    3. 3. because you need money to operate…
    4. 4. …but they can be overwhelming!
    5. 5. Before You Begin Searching… Find Help Learn Some New Terms Which Sources Are Out There?
    6. 6. DemographicsNow Is A Good Local Start Find in-depth, customizable reports for SC population, income, housing, consumer expenditures, businesses and more!
    7. 7. BCD COG’s Online Mapping Tool Rocks! Limited demographics compared to DemographicsNow, but the mapping abilities are awesome!
    8. 8. American FactFinder The Census Bureau is a major demographics resource for the US. Take advantage of them!
    9. 9. American FactFinder Check out the online training or contact the Census Bureau for help.
    10. 10. FedStats Find federal government stats by topic or state without needing to know which agency collects it!
    11. 11. Statistical Abstracts SC and US Statistical Abstracts: a little bit of everything, available online for free
    12. 12. If you learn the basics before it’s urgent…
    13. 13. …you’ll be a hero when it counts!
    14. 14. CCPL Reference can help 843-805-6930 Research consultations available by appointment