Shortly after Carolina Demography launched in 2013, we started getting emailed requests for help in using Census data and other data sets. These trickled in from journalists, policymakers, non-profit leaders, and academics throughout the state – and we answered them if they weren’t too complicated and as we had time.
By 2018, we were getting over 100 of these requests a year. Two years later, the number of requests for data assistance had tripled – and we realized that we had essentially stood up a new service for residents of North Carolina to better understand demographic data.
We are now in the process of formalizing this pro bono service providing data support and guidance. In doing so, we wanted to learn more about who had previously written to us – to better make sense of who knew about the service, and where we would have to do outreach within North Carolina.
We asked Vinny Rottger, a sophomore public policy major at UNC, to crunch some numbers for us. Below are his findings and analysis of our demography@ service.
(If you have a question about Census data or other demographic data, you can always email us at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Carolina Demography handed me their spreadsheet and asked me to find some trends within the data. Here’s what I discovered.
Carolina Demography works with many journalists across the state who have data questions, and they just received a grant to strengthen their work with the journalism community in North Carolina. They asked me to determine which journalists they were reaching and what topics the journalists wanted to learn more about.
In looking at the data, it’s clear that Carolina Demography is reaching journalists in the Triangle and in Mecklenburg, but could strengthen their outreach to other parts of the state.
Journalists from 16 counties submitted requests in 2020. That number rose to 20 in 2021. (There are 100 counties in NC, but not every county has journalists.)
The two counties with the most requests were Wake and Orange, followed by Mecklenburg, Durham, Pitt, and Forsyth. The most requests came from The News and Observer, The Daily Tar Heel, WFAE in Charlotte, and WUNC in Chapel Hill. There were also requests from news organizations in the far Eastern part of the state and the far Western part of the state.
The most common question topic over the past two years was the Census. Within that, journalists asked about population totals and losses, migration patterns, and COVID-19’s affect on the population. Other topics with multiple questions included broadband access, foreign-born populations and the pandemic, and voting.
In addition to journalists, lots of other people write into demography@, including academics, non-profit leaders, policymakers, county and town officials, and business leaders.
Their requests were also concentrated in Wake, Orange, and Mecklenburg. Requests from academics primarily came from the Triangle region and Charlotte, but also included schools in Buncombe, Watauga, and Pitt.
The most common question topic was Census, but there were also a greater number of questions about other topics, such as housing, transportation, migration, and education.
Carolina Demography received more questions each time a new data release came out from the Census Bureau: 87 requests came in August 2021 after the 2020 Census data was released.
The majority of requests also coincided with the academic school year, with peaks in fall and spring and decreases in summer and on winter break.
Need help understanding population change and its impacts on your community or business? Carolina Demography offers demographic research tailored to your needs.
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Categories: Lessons Learned
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