Home Census How San Antonio is using new census data to target resources

How San Antonio is using new census data to target resources

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The latest version of the American Community Survey (ACS), a data product of the US Census Bureau, was released last Thursday after a four-month delay.

Used by the public and private sectors, the ACS provides detailed information on 40 different data points such as a person’s income, ancestry, language spoken at home, level of education, whether served in the military, how far they commute to work, whether they have health insurance, how they heat their homes, and whether they have access to a personal vehicle.

This information is essential for many functions in the government of the city of San Antonio.

Urban planning

Planners working for the San Antonio Planning Department depend on ACS to provide accurate information. information about the different areas of the city.

Sarah Serpas, the department’s senior planner, said the ACS served as the basis for their research into the state of neighborhoods in the city. “If you’re trying to understand the demographics of an area or its economic characteristics, like the housing there, the ACS is really the best source for that,” she said.

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Equity

The City’s Equity Office also uses ACS data to maintain its Stock Atlas, an online tool designed to inform city departments on how to address city-wide equity goals and strategies. Jonathan Malagon, Equity Manager at the San Antonio Office of Equity, described it as a simple map and ranking index that guides the city’s services and support to where they’re needed most.

“We envisioned creating a simple online tool and set of maps that can be used to inform equity approaches to budgeting, program development and advocacy strategies focusing on areas with the most high concentrations of people of color and low-income households,” Malagon said.

The Equity Atlas combines multiple ACS data points, such as race, income, education level and languages ​​spoken at home, to produce a single “score” against which to rate a neighborhood.

A screenshot of the city’s Equity Atlas dashboard.

City of San Antonio

Pandemic aid

For more than two years, the Atlas has been helping with decision-making and has been particularly useful to the city at the height of the pandemic. For example, the city Economic Development Department created a dashboard that used the Atlas’ combined equity score to guide decision-making around the distribution of small business COVID-19 recovery dollars.

$1.2 billion bond

Although it was created to ensure that the city’s decisions are informed by reliable data that could address disparities between various indicators, the city has generated interest from the general public and non-profit organizations in the use of the Atlas.

In May, voters in San Antonio will be asked to approve six bond proposals covering 183 projects for a total cost of $1.2 billion. Among them will be a $150 million funding program for affordable housing opportunities in the city that will target the most vulnerable households. The city’s guidelines for bond financing will prioritize areas with high to moderate equity scores determined by the Atlas.

Learn more about ACS

“We really hope to improve access to opportunity for San Antonio residents through the work we do,” Malagon said.

The Census Bureau collects the 40 data points included in the ACS monthly from a strategically selected sample of U.S. residents, then uses statistics to apply the results to different geographies and populations across the country.

This latest version of the ACS is the 5-year estimate, a 60-month average of survey responses adjusted to correct for errors, and a lower than normal response rate. The Census Bureau received fewer responses to the survey form than at any time in the past two decades, a reduction attributed to the pandemic.

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