By Vincent Rinehart

Digging into the Census Bureau’s website for data can be difficult, especially for programs with a geographically large service area or a large funded enrollment. The best way to do this is to present the data for your service area as a whole, and then break it down into smaller chunks.

An example of how to do this is below for southeast Alaska’s American Indian/Alaska Native Program: Tlingit & Haida Head Start. The raw census data from the 5 year American Community Survey can be found here. The program covers hundreds of miles from north to south with 10 distinct, Census designated geographies. The census designated geographies, counties or boroughs in this case, can be combined together to create an overall estimate of the number of age eligible children for 2012, the latest year we have data for.

2012 5-Year ACS
Combined Tlingt & Haida Service Area
Total Population: 72,210
Population under the age of 5: 6.28%
Poverty rate for families with children under the age of 5: 15.02% (Nation at 17.7%)
Estimated Head Start Eligible: 273
Estimated eligible infants & toddlers: 409


A table is created to show the detailed break down of Census data for each county/borough.


I can then use this data to create a custom map. Each geographic area can be clicked to display basic Census data. Additionally, Head Start centers are plotted on the map.

This sort of geographic breakdown is also helpful for urban programs operating in densely populated areas. When working with data from these sort of programs it’s better to look at the service area by Zip Code or Census Tract instead of County/Borough. (Stay tuned for an example.)

These are examples of the basic tables and data that should be included in the demographics portion of your program’s Community Assessment. Combined with internal data and data from a program’s PIR, a Head Start program would have what it needs to do in depth analysis and plan for full enrollment.

I am available to gather and organize this data and guide your Head Start program through analysis, planning and writing of your Community Assessment. I have 6 years of experience working with chronically under enrolled programs. Please see my about page for more information on how to contact me.

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