Blog Archive

March 2012

D3 is Moving!

D3 is currently in transition to new offices. During this transition, we may not be reachable at our old address or through our old office phone numbers. The best way to contact us is via email or through Ask Kurt.

It’s been an honor serving Detroit’s communities from this location, and we’ll always carry fond memories of the place.

In the meantime, enjoy this picture of the Barden building in 1910. (It’s visible just to the left of the D.A.C.) Just 92 short years later, D3 is departing from what was once apparently referred to as “Telephone Building.” Since 1988, the address has been part of the Madison Harmonie Historic District.

State Integrity Report Card: Michigan

By Louis Bach, Communications

The State Integrity Investigation has released corruption risk report cards for all fifty states, and Michigan is among the eight states that received an F for its vulnerability to corruption. Though Michigan received an A for its internal auditing and scores of B- for both its state budget process and procurement, it received scores of D or F on the eleven other measures of corruption risk. Michigan’s rating, though poor, is in broad company. As the New York Times notes, “No state got an A; five received B’s, and the rest grades of C, D or F.”

Considering the importance of transparency in preventing corruption, it’s only appropriate that any measurement of corruptibility engage in full transparency itself. True to form, the State Integrity Investigation’s methodology and data are available for anyone to examine. Notably, all of the Investigation’s scores were developed by surveying reporters and vetting survey results via expert peer reviewers.

Do you feel that Michigan deserves the grades that it received? Let us know in the comments.

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Diversity is the Future for Michigan

by Kurt Metzger, Director

The following originally appeared as a post on the Detroit Data Guru.

The Census Bureau released its newest compilation of 2010 Census data for Michigan on March 8.  This file allows us to understand the demographics of the growing racial and ethnic groups across our State and in our neighborhoods.  While Data Driven Detroit will begin to produce a series of Detailed Race/Ethnic profiles, I decided to take a quick look at how these new numbers better help us understand how these groups differ in their age distributions.

When we look at the share that persons of color (anyone who is not white, nonHispanic) represent by age, we see a gradual increase as age decreases.  While accounting for only 14 percent of the population 65 years and over,  the figure below shows a 34 percent share in the youngest cohort, less than 5 years of age.  Overall, persons of color represent 23.4 percent of Michigan’s population. (more…)

Meet the Staff: Erica Raleigh, Public Safety Analyst

by Louis Bach, Communications

D3’s data systems project manager and public safety analyst, Erica Raleigh, has been with the organization for nearly its entire existence. She was hired in early 2009 to compile the One D scorecard; since then, she has managed and contributed to projects including Detroit Kids Data, the Center for Michigan scorecard, the Woodward Corridor Initiative, and D3’s internal Data Management Enhancement.

During that period, Erica completed the Master of Urban Planning program at Wayne State University. The program culminated with the development of her thesis, “Crime and Vacant, Open, and Dangerous Housing.” It uses a block-by-block analysis to determine the relationship between vacant, open, and dangerous (VOD) housing and different types of crime.

Raleigh found that some types of crime (e.g. robbery, vandalism, and assault) but not others (e.g. burglary) were strongly correlated with VOD housing. It was only the second study conducted to examine VOD housing specifically and find that it correlated with crime more strongly than vacant housing alone. “Data was the fun part,” said Erica of her writing process. “Developing the theory was crucial, but it was more onerous.”

“I like being able to ask a question and then attack it,” she says, “so being paid to do research at D3 is my ideal job.”

Feeding Inkster With Community Gardens

By Katharine Frohardt-Lane, Research Analyst

In 2010-2011, the National Kidney Foundation Michigan (NKFM) received a capacity-building grant from the Michigan Department of Community Health‘s Office of Minority Health to reduce minority health disparities in the community of Inkster in western Wayne County.  The first year of the grant was devoted to identifying key community stakeholders and forming a coalition of these stakeholders. (As the program evaluator for the Inkster grant, I monitor and report on the program’s progress.) That coalition, the Inkster Partnership for a Healthier Community (IPHC), initially worked to define their vision, mission, and structure.  After several sessions in which the group participated in the identification of the main issues facing Inkster residents, the coalition organized itself into workgroups, each of which was to work on helping to solve one of the identified issues.  The “Feeding Inkster” workgroup decided to put its efforts into developing community gardens.


Meet the Staff: Nate Barnes, Research Analyst

by Louis Bach, Communications

 The D3 staff blog will periodically profile our staff members, offering a picture of the analysts and other staffers behind Data Driven Detroit. Today, we feature research analyst Nate Barnes.

After completing the undergraduate program in political science at Michigan State University, Nate moved to Detroit to pursue a master’s degree in urban planning from Wayne State University. He got his introduction to D3 when he met senior analyst Erica Raleigh at a Wayne State Students for Urban Planning (WSSUP) welcome event.

“D3 sounded like exactly what I wanted to do,” Nate said, including its goal of “providing support for [data-driven] decision-making that’s not always done, particularly in urban planning, and particular in the Detroit area.”

Nate’s love of data-driven urbanism reflects the wonkish atmosphere around the office. Whenever he travels to a new city, he uses the Census FactFinder to get a more quantitative feel for a place’s character than any travel guidebook can provide.

Like D3, Nate has sought to integrate planners with neighborhoods and communities. As an undergrad at MSU, he spent his senior year interning as a Neighborhood Resource Coordinator, acting as a liaison between the school’s student body and the local community. “We were trying to act not just as students, but as citizens” as well, he said of his work.

When he’s away from data, he spends his time coaching for the soccer program at Del Cristo Rey high school in southwest Detroit.

Diversity is the Future for Michigan

The Census Bureau released its newest compilation of 2010 Census data for Michigan on March 8.  This file allows us to understand the demographics of the growing racial and ethnic groups across our State and in our neighborhoods.  While Data Driven Detroit will begin to produce a series of Detailed Race/Ethnic profiles, I decided to take a quick look at how these new numbers better help us understand how these groups differ in their age distributions.

When we look at the share that persons of color (anyone who is not white, nonHispanic) represent by age, we see a gradual increase as age decreases.  While accounting for only 14 percent of the population 65 years and over,  the figure below shows a 34 percent share in the youngest cohort, less than 5 years of age.  Overall, persons of color represent 23.4 percent of Michigan’s population.

In order to better understand the age distributions within specific race and ethnic groups, I first ranked all the groups by the percentage of their populations that were below 18 years of age (children).  Rapidly growing countries have populations that are young, with heavy concentrations of population in their child-bearing years and large numbers of children.  Among the groups where children accounted for at least a third of their populations were Guatemalans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Hmong, Bolivians, Bangladeshi, and Pakistanis.  African Americans came in at 27.9 percent and white, nonHispanics trailed all but Japanese, Taiwanese, Indonesians and Thai with 21.3 percent.

The best way to understand the gender and age structure of a country or particular race/ethnic group is to look at its population pyramid.  The pyramid represents population share for each 5 year age cohort for both genders.  Below you have two very different pyramids.  The first is for Michigan’s white, nonHispanics, while the second is for Michigan’s Mexicans.

The shape of the first is far from that of a pyramid.  Rather, it is beginning to approach the shape of a rectangle.  The bulge in the middle represents the large baby boom generation.  The bulge somewhat lower is the baby boomlet, a period when the large baby boom cohort was having children.  The bars below the 15-19 year cohort continue to get smaller as births have continued to decrease.  The population less than 10 years of age represents only 11.9 percent of the white, nonHispanic population.  The cohort 65 years and over now accounts for 13.4 percent of the total – a share that will continue to grow as 20 years of baby boomers began reaching these ranks in 2011.

The second portrays the age and gender distribution of the Mexican population.  In this case we see the true pyramid structure, with the largest population cohorts in the youngest ages, and a decreasing share with increasing age.  This is what the total population of Michigan looked like in the heart of the baby boom years in the early 1950s.

Children less than 10 years of age account for almost one of every four Mexicans in Michigan (24.3%), while those 65 years and over account for just 4.1 percent.

It is clear that Michigan is becoming more and more diverse with every day.  The Governor’s recent call to make Michigan the most immigrant-friendly state in the country will help to move the needle as well.

As the older white, nonHispanic population ages, it will be the younger, African American,  Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern and other ethnic groups that will help drive Michigan’s future.  Their presence is now and will be in the future a true asset for our State.

D3 Goes West: the Portland NNIP Conference

By Danny Devries, Economic Analyst

Danny Devries and Kat Hartman in Portland

It can be tough out there for a data analyst; most people don’t quite understand what we do, so I just say “I make maps.” When they respond “Haven’t you heard of Google Maps?,” I can only stare forlornly. Luckily, D3 is not alone in this world. NNIP is a community that hates American FactFinder 2 but loves to visualize margins of error. These data folk are a special breed.

Last week, D3 analyst Kat Hartman and I left our homes in cold-yet-sunny Detroit to spend a few days in cold-and-rainy Portland, Oregon to attend the semiannual NNIP conference. The National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) is a collaborative effort by the Urban Institute and local partners in cities across the nation to further the development and use of neighborhood information systems in local policymaking and community building. The conference was a great opportunity to interact, share, and learn from our comrades-in-arms from other cities, from New York City to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Besides the chance to socialize with like-minded nerds, the Portland conference provided great learning opportunities that require reaching out beyond Detroit. D3 is one of the larger NNIP partners and our work covers a lot of territory (literally and figuratively), but some partners are leaps and bounds ahead of D3 in areas such as promoting citizenship journalism. Piton Foundation in Denver is developing a Citizen Atlas to empower communities to tell their own stories using data. Boston’s Metro Area Planning Council is using Weave, a new platform developed by University of Massachusetts Lowell in collaboration with several NNIP partners, to allow individuals to build and post their own maps that others can continue to build. Seeing the groundbreaking work in other cities is a reminder that there is always more we can do here in Detroit.

The other great benefit of the NNIP meetings is stepping back from the day-to-day work to reexamine the bigger picture of our work. Some NNIP stakeholders suggested that data are most effective when supporting a community’s aspirations, rather than using data to drive the aspirations. If a community has made the commitment to address a challenge, placing the right data in their hands can be quite powerful. But if that same community hasn’t mobilized around an issue and doesn’t yet have a vision for the change they would like to see, data alone cannot be the catalyst for change. As I sit at my desk and stare at databases all day long (and make those aforementioned maps), it is easy to forget why I’m here and what drew me to the field in the first place. Devoting time to discuss the underlying philosophy of data with a community of practitioners over a cold Portland microbrew is a refreshing reminder of the power of data.

This was my second NNIP conference. The last meeting was in Detroit last May, and the next meeting will be in Providence, Rhode Island this September.

A Fine-Grained Look at Food Accessibility

By Louis Bach, Communications

Researchers at Michigan State University have recently raised the bar for quantifying food accessibility. They visited 94 retail locations in Lansing and East Lansing and recorded the presence or absence of 447 food items. From there, they mapped the pedestrian and automotive accessibility zones for each of those items, showing what parts of the city had (for example) bananas, roma tomatoes, or soft drinks within walking range. Finally, they’ve supplemented their accessibility methods with demographic data, comparing how easily people different racial groups, income ranges, or BMIs can access fresh and junk food.


Check out a tour of their work (warning: includes formulas), a few of their maps, and their interactive tool.


Beauty Truly is in the Eye of the Beholder!

I am sure that everyone reading this post has been to the Zoo at sometime in their life.  I grew up going to the Cincinnati Zoo and have tried to visit others when in cities around the country. I remember being overwhelmed by the size of the Detroit Zoo when I first moved here in 1975.  While Cincy’s Zoo was geographically constricted in size by residential development on all sides, Detroit’s vast expanse reminded me of European Zoos which served as a community gathering place – a place to meet friends, share a picnic lunch and spend a wonderful afternoon.  The last 37 years have brought incredible change to the Detroit Zoo, and the constantly improving and expanding displays, the gardens (created and maintained by volunteers), the picnic areas, the kiosks, the butterfly house, and much much more make it one of the truly great zoos in the country.  I was so proud of our tri-county region when the voters unanimously approved a millage for Zoo operations.  I can attest that we are getting our monies’ worth.

In spite of all the years of zoo attendance, I must admit that, though I found them fascinating creatures to look at, I never felt a particular fondness for the Rhinoceros. I can usually see adults and children crowding to see the great apes, the lions and tigers, the giraffes and elephants, but rarely do they spend much time with the Rhinos.

That changed when my wife and I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes and meet Judy Stephens.  Judy lives and breathes Rhinos.  Not only was she kind enough to allow us to meet her 2 male charges, but she worked with them in such a way that they felt comfortable enough to allow our touch (as you can see above in the pictures Judy volunteered to take).  We stood transfixed as she told us her history with both black and white Rhinos and the differences between the two in child rearing and other behaviors. She shared stories and pictures that brought laughs and tears.  I guarantee that every one of our visits to the ZOO from now on will entail our hurrying straight to the back to see what the boys are up to.

I want to end this posting with a request.  Rhinos are subject to foot problems, usually exacerbated by the cement floors that exist in their indoor quarters.  Some zoos have been able to create mudrooms that can help to reduce such problems.  Judy Stephens has created a design for such a room that could be constructed just outside the Rhino’s indoor quarters.  She needs a professional to convert this design into a formal architectural plan and then we need to raise the funds to make it happen.  I know that our community has many caring individuals with a broad range of expertise.  If anyone out there is ready for such a task, or you know anyone who would be interested, please have them contact me.  I guarantee that one meeting with Judy and her rhinos will have you hooked!