Welcome to Liz’s Blog

Welcome! I have developed a portfolio site as part of my graduate training in Interactive Journalism at American University. I will use this Web site to showcase articles and other projects I complete as part of my studies.

The portfolio site includes a blog where I will post and discuss school projects as well as links to various reports and articles I develop in my role as a professional statistician/demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau.

What is a Demographer?

“Homework!” reads a post on the internet. “I need to know what a Demographer is… for social studies.”

Demography is the scientific study of human populations. Demographers are especially interested in the size, distribution, and composition (e.g., age and sex) of populations and the processes that lead to change. These include births, deaths, and migration (both immigration and emigration).

The Foreign-Born Population from 1960 to 2010

The Census Bureau has released a working paper written by me and my colleagues entitled The Size, Place of Birth, and Geographic Distribution of the Foreign-Born Population in the United States: 1960 to 2010.

This working paper summarizes many of the changes that have occurred over the last 50 years, as the foreign-born population has shifted from an older, predominantly European population settled in the Northeast and Midwest to a younger, predominantly Latin American and Asian population settled in the West and South.

The paper also includes several graphs and a set of maps — one for each decade from 1960 to 2010 — dramatically illustrating the change in size and distribution of the foreign-born population in the United States through time.

Blogging on a Blog

This week, a colleague and I released our first blog on Random Samplings, the official blog of the U.S. Census Bureau. Entitled Faster vs. Bigger: Size and Growth of the Foreign-Born from Asia and Latin America, it was promoted to the Census Bureau’s internet site as part of the release of another report entitled The Foreign Born From Asia: 2011.

The primary reason we wanted to write the blog was to counter what seemed to be a misunderstanding by several journalists about the implications of the recent decline in the rate of growth of the foreign-born population from Latin America (including Mexico).

It is true that the rate of growth of the foreign-born population from Latin America has slowed, especially during the latter half of the last decade. It is also true that the rate of growth of the foreign-born population from Asia was higher than that of the foreign-born from Latin America during the same period. It is also possible that these differential rates of growth will continue for the next few years or even throughout the next decade.

However, in 2011, the foreign-born population from Latin America (21.2 million) was almost twice as large at the foreign-born population from Asia (11.6 million). In addition, the foreign-born population from Latin America is still growing, although at a slower rate than the foreign born from Asia. Due to its larger population base, the foreign-born population from Latin America will remain the largest region-of-birth group for the foreseeable future, regardless of differentials in growth rates when compared with the Asia foreign born.


Census Sticks

For those of you lucky enough to be driving on Silver Hill Road in Suitland, Maryland, past the Suitland Federal Center, you can see the Census Bureau Headquarters. Constructed between 2003 and 2007, it is not your typical-looking federal building. What makes it so special? Its dramatic wood “veil,” made up of 16,000 curving wood fins, each 13 feet long and 11 inches wide, and bolted in rows to the side of the eight-story building, covering the windows with a chaotic yet elegant sunshade.

My appreciation for this unique design element grew when I learned of the lengths to which the builder had to go to find a company that could mill the lumber and bend it into its unique shapes. After a long search, they enlisted the help of a WWII-era shipbuilder, Maurice Rhude, and the craftsmen of Sentinal Structures in Peshtigo, Wisconsin to construct the fins. Although the company had long ago ceased shipbuilding, Sentinel’s mill worked for two straight years, methodically milling, gluing, and bending white oak into the required undulating forms.

For more information about the design and construction of the “Census sticks,” see the article by Dave Barista entitled “Handcrafting the Census Bureau’s Hardwood Veil” in the May 2007 edition of Building Design+Construction.


Three Statisticians Go Hunting…

Stop me if you’ve heard this one…

Three statisticians are out hunting when they see a deer. The first statistician takes aim and shoots, but the bullet goes past the deer’s nose by 9 inches. Then, the second statistician takes aim and fires, but the bullet goes past the deer’s rump by 9 inches.

The third statistician exclaims: “We got him!”

Well, yes, on average

Wonderful Widgets

One of the many wonderful features of WordPress are its widgets. Widgets are a kind of plugin that provide visitors with visual and interactivity options and features. They were designed for the “programming impaired” — those of us old folks who are easily inspired to bang our heads on the keyboard when faced with the too-often daunting task of learning and writing code.

But fear not, old farts! Many of the most useful features that are required for any blog site are already pre-programmed and there for the taking. Do you want a search box? Click and drag it to your sidebar. Do you want a list of your recent blog posts prominently displayed? Grab and go! How about some handy navigation links to help your readers find the content they want? It’s yours!

As a beginning blogger, I chose a background theme that included several of the standard widgets available in WordPress. The one I added was the text widget. I titled my text widget as “Quote of the Day” and put what is probably the best known quote about statistics under the heading.

Why the text widget? I think it’s useful for blogs oriented to a particular topic to have a place to highlight small bits of related information.

For example, a blog on media bias might put a link to an article that represents a particularly egregious example. A personal portfolio blog might link to an article or video featuring the work of the author but housed on another Web site. An industry blog might highlight “fast facts” their viewers would find interesting and useful.

The text widget is a quick-and-easy way to add additional content that gives the blog a feeling of depth — with minimal effort — making the lives of the “programming averse” a lot less stressful.

Plugging Into Plugins

While I am amazed by the sheer number of available Plugins for WordPress, I am more impressed by the variety. And such creativity! There are so many good Plugins it was hard choose… but here are three I think are useful to bloggers.

Number 1: Broken Link Checker — Broken links are a most annoying problem, often plaguing larger, poorly managed Web sites. This handy Plugin will search your site and alert you if it finds a broken link or a bad redirect. How cool is that?

Number 2: Google XML Sitemaps — As realtors say, what matters is: Location! Location! Location! For bloggers, any address in cyberspace can be a “hot spot,” but if readers can’t easily locate a site’s content, its sunk! Google XML Sitemaps helps search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com better index and access information on blog pages.

Number 3: Advanced WP Columns — With computer monitor screens getting bigger at the same time screens on portable devices are getting smaller, the option to column text on a page may be one way to make content more accessible, regardless of what device is used. Advanced WP Columns allows bloggers to present their content in multiple columns.