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Census Data Book Helps Americans See Big Picture - 2002-06-11

The U.S. Census Bureau has published a thick book filled with millions of facts and figures about U.S. counties and cities based on the 2000 census. Which city is the most densely populated? New York. The least? Anchorage, Alaska. Four out of ten residents of the nation's capital live alone.

Here is a fact. More than one third of the people in Florida's Charlotte County were age 65 or older in the year of the census, the highest percentage in the United States. In contrast, Georgia's Chattahoochee County registered fewer than two percent of its population older than 65.

Who would find that information of any use? Floridian Bernice Ryan says she would. "If you were getting ready to retire and you wanted to look for some place that's good, where there's a lot of people, it's probably a good place to go," she said.

Here is another fact: Gilbert, Arizona grew faster than any other U.S. city between 1990 and 2000. The city of St. Louis, Missouri, lost 12 percent of its population during the same period.

Bernice's husband John says such information does not interest him but he acknowledges it would interest his employer, a a major retailer. "If I was high up in the chain of the command," he said, it would be important information to him.

Did you know that four in ten people in Washington, D.C., lived alone at the time of the 2000 census, reversing a trend of the early 1900s of multi-generational households.

Adrian, a young history student in Washington, finds the lifestyle shift interesting but says it would not influence her decision on where to live.

"Probably not. I don't think it would necessarily impact my present actions. I think of it more as a historian and how it will be used in the future," he said.

Someone seeking a job might like to know that the Californian cities of Fresno, Salinas and Stockton had the highest rate of unemployment while the Michigan cities of Ann Arbor and Livonia registered the lowest.

Census Bureau statistician Glen King says all these facts and figures are of great interest to a lot of people both inside and outside government.

"There's a great range of users of the information, especially local governments use it in adjusting their programs to the needs of the citizens," he said. "Marketers and businesses are certainly great users of the information in that they can adjust and know what their clientele are in different areas of the country. Knowing the concentration of elderly or young people or people living alone has a great impact on the types of services and products they offer."

The County and City Data Book, which Mr. King helped compile, has been published off and on since 1944. He says the 2000 census has provided more information about the diversity of the American population because of additional questions on race and ethnicity.

And here is another fact: New York City, with about 10,000 people per square kilometer was the most crowded city in the year 2000. For those who prefer lots of elbow room, Anchorage, Alaska was the place to be. The 2000 census showed only 50 people per square kilometer in what turns out to be the least crowded city in the United States.