- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 22, 2011

Last year there were 290,508 kitchens in the District, more than 74,000 Maryland children spoke Spanish Creole and only 130 Virginians chose to heat their homes with solar power.

Such offbeat facts were included in the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey Single Year Estimates released Thursday. The online database is filled with thousands of answers to questions about the income, ethnicity, lifestyle and health of the country’s residents — information that helps federal agencies provide future services and allows anyone with a little creativity to learn about their community.

“For the average person, the advantage of the ACSS … is you get the data every year. You can look across time and be able to see trends and patterns in the data,” said Scott Boggess, chief of the survey’s coordination staff. “All of the questions on the [report] are needed by federal agencies in order to either manage programs or allocate funds.”

Other questions range from: How many miles a person commutes, which helps the Department of Transportation assess travel needs, to “what might be needed by local school boards in order to determine what languages they need to offer educational instruction in,” Mr. Boggess said.

The information was compiled mostly from the 2000 long-form census, which one in six residents received instead of the shorter list of questions. It is not the 2010 census data, Mr. Boggess said, but a survey of about 2 percent of the population.

“The farther we get away from census data, the greater the possibility the population estimate isn’t actually going to be a true estimate,” he said. “This is kind of hitting the reset button this year because we reset the population estimates to the 2010 census count.”

The seemingly endless combinations of information available — such as how many grandparents of a certain demographic live in their grandchildren’s home and hold jobs — also include the mainstream figures that grab the most attention in the Washington region, such as commuting numbers and household income.

According to the survey, Maryland commuters spent the longest time getting to work, a 31.8-minute trip. The state also had the second-highest percentage of workers who were employed outside their home county: 47 percent.

While the Washington region historically has high incomes as a result of high-tech and government jobs, the median family income in Virginia dropped $4,000 from 2009 to 2010; or $104,000 to $100,000 according to an earlier story by The Washington Times.

Mr. Boggess said the next wave of numbers to be announced come in December and they will focus on data specific enough to see trends in neighborhoods.

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