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Hidden in Plain Sight: Creating County-Based Data with Public Use Mircrodata Areas

Presenter 1
Lisa Neidert
Population Studies Center, University of Michigan

Researchers are requesting geographically-referenced data, particularly at the sub-state level. There is a array of resources to fulfill these requests. This paper describes a 'hidden' source of county level data; presents a tool that allows users to extract user-defined characteristics; and illustrates a reverse use of this tool to create reliable characteristics for sparsely populated counties. The American Community Survey has generated county-based data since 2005. However, the only counties included in the data release are counties with populations of 65,000 or more. While this population cut-off includes over 80 percent of the US population, it only incorporates 783 of 3,141 counties. Data from the census has typically included all counties but access problems remain. Sometimes a researcher needs a measure not included in the summary files. In addition, there are some sparsely populated counties. Users would benefit from more reliable statistics for these counties. The lowest unit of geography in Census/ACS microdata is the public use microdata area (PUMA). Using the mapping between PUMAs and counties, we translate PUMA-based statistics into county-based statistics. Likewise, when counties are too small to generate reliable statistics, we combine data for these counties based on their PUMA boundaries to create pseudo county-based measures.

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