Demographic and Socioeconomic Research Projects
|Utility of Historical Census Data for Long Term Ecological Studies|
Long term ecological change cannot be understood without an assessment of human activities over time. One of the richest sources of historical data on human activities is the decennial census. We propose to assess and summarize the utility of historical census data, published and unpublished, in conjunction with other data sets to evaluate the relationships between human and ecological dynamics in the Gwynn's Falls watershed and Baltimore City from 1870 to 1990.
Because of the comprehensive and detailed information available in the census over a long period of time, it is critical that researchers know how this resource can be used to better understand the impact of human beings on local ecology and how ecological factors may influence patterns of human decision-making. The purpose of this research is to examine how published and manuscript census information can be used for:
Since humans are responsible for considerable ecological change, particularly in urban areas, we propose to assess how historical census data can demonstrate changing human patterns over time and space. We need to assess which methods allow us to fairly compare demographics from one period to another. Since variables are not constant over time (e.g. ethnic or race designations can differ considerably), methods must be developed that permit reasonable comparisons between decennial censuses.
The need to integrate and manage information spanning 200 or more years has presented a number of challenges in developing a geographic base suitable to analyze the relationships between population, land use change, and changes to the physical environment at a variety of geographic scales. Changing census geographies over time will require careful consideration. In the case of Baltimore City, present-day census tracts have been derived largely from historical ward boundaries. Outside city limits, there has been less consistency of boundaries over time. The census geography for the time periods will be digitized allowing a spatial comparison from one decade to the next. For Baltimore City, aggregation and dis-aggregation techniques will be developed to allow statistical comparison of census areal units for longitudinal studies.
Historical census manuscripts offer an opportunity to reconstruct the human geography of the Baltimore area on a fine scale. Our purpose is to assess which sampling techniques of the manuscript data over time and space would best allow us to map efficiently the human geography of the study area while maintaining a reasonable degree of accuracy. Interpolation of the data using GIS methods will be assessed for accuracy and applicability.
Linking Census and Ecological Data
A variety of historical data sets are available that allow the reconstruction of past ecologies. One imperative is to understand how land use and vegetation cover have changed in response to demographic changes. Land use and land cover information can be collected from a variety of sources:
Linking Census and Other Social Data
While census data, especially the manuscript records, reveal much about human patterns, to obtain a fuller picture of society in the past we need to link these data to other data sets. We intend to investigate how to link census data to a number of other social indicators that were collected using spatial and temporal methods that differ from those used by the census. Mortality and morbidity data, for example, are often direct links between culture and environment. Poor environmental conditions and in turn public health conditions may be a product of both cultural practices and ecology. Once we assess how to link the data on public health to the census data, we can get a better sense of the cultural factors that interacted with ecological factors to generate a propensity for poor (or good) health. Similarly, once we are able to link the census data to consumption patterns, and other social data sets, it will enrich the census data and give us a more complete understanding of the historical-cultural geography of the Baltimore area.
Boone, Christopher G., Buckley, Geoff, Dyer, James. "Utility of Historical Census Data for Long Term Ecological Studies: A Case Study of the Baltimore Metropolitan Region through the Baltimore Ecosystem Study. " Invited Seminar, United States Census Bureau, Suitland, Maryland (July 2000).
Data and Data Collection
Research Topics to be addressed through this Project