By: Angela Maher and Emily Campbell
At Community Solutions, we are committed to providing the best available data. To us, best means the most reliable, updated, granular, and relevant. Unfortunately, we often have to make compromises because the ideal indicators and statistics are sometimes simply not available. Other times, we have to clear methodological hurdles to get as close as possible. That’s what we’ve done with the newly-released Ohio Legislative Fact Sheets.
The boundaries and even the numbers of some legislative districts have changed dramatically since 2020. A large number of state legislators are serving their first terms, while many incumbents find themselves representing different communities than they had in the past.
Demographic and socioeconomic data for the old districts simply was not sufficient, and we weren’t willing to wait for the Census Bureau to catch up. So we set our research and policy experts to work to try to do better.
Most people are familiar with the decennial Census – the Constitutionally mandated effort to count every person in the United States every ten years. The results of the decennial Census are used to reapportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as to draw new district boundaries for Ohio’s legislature.
Using the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey data as building blocks
As the federal government’s largest statistical agency, the U.S. Census Bureau produces many datasets in addition to the decennial Census. We at The Center for Community Solutions rely on the American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is conducted monthly with a small sample of residents to collect ongoing data points for decision-makers to use. As the Census Bureau describes it, it is the nation’s “premier source for detailed population and housing information.” The ACS results are offered in 1-year as well as 5-year averages. The 5-year averages offer more robust data, available for smaller geographic areas, and are our preferred option.
The Legislative Profiles highlight demographic age, race, and education data, as well as employment, poverty, housing affordability, and public benefits access for each district. The ACS is the best data source for this information statewide, and the 5-year ACS data from 2017-2021 was used as the data source for most of the profile data.
The U.S. Census Bureau makes ACS data available at a variety of geographic levels, including State upper and lower legislative chambers – which in our state are the Ohio Senate (upper) and Ohio House of Representatives (lower). However, since Ohio’s districts, which were redrawn in response to the 2020 Census, are only approved temporarily, the ACS data is not available to match the current legislative districts used to elect the sitting Ohio General Assembly.
To be able to use the most recent ACS data available, 2017-2021, the Center for Community Solutions needed to match the data as closely as possible to the current legislative districts on our own. We used the actual Ohio House and Senate districts in place for the 2022 elections. A map of these districts is available on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website.
To use the most recent ACS data available the Center for Community Solutions needed to match the data as closely as possible to the current legislative districts on our own.
The smallest geography for which ACS data is available is Census block groups. Block groups are subdivisions of Census tracts based on population and generally contain between 600 and 3,000 people.
There are 9,472 block groups in Ohio. Using spatial analysis, we took the map of all the block groups in Ohio and overlayed the map of the 2022 House districts. We assigned each block group a House district based on which district the majority of the geographic area of the block group was located. We repeated this process for Ohio’s Senate districts.
Once each block group was assigned a House and Senate district, the ACS block group data was combined by districts and analyzed to produce the Legislative Fact Sheets.
Data research and nonpartisan policy analysis used together produces more meaningful advocacy
Creating a data set to examine information on community conditions by state legislative district was a complex and time-consuming process. Why did we bother? When making policy, constituency matters. Ohio’s legislators are elected to represent the people who live within their district. We want to be certain that they have the best available data to make informed decisions.
This intersection of data and research and nonpartisan policy analysis is something that sets Community Solutions apart. We set out to create the kind of data that we wanted to use in our advocacy on issues that are important to Ohio, and are making the data available to anyone on the Community Fact Sheets section of our website. There you will find the fact sheets for every single legislative district and you can download the full data set covered by those documents.
This intersection of data and research and nonpartisan policy analysis is something that sets Community Solutions apart.
The core of our work is to help leaders, community members, and policymakers understand the information and how they can use it to make data-informed decisions. If you are interested in talking to one of our experts about the data in the fact sheets and what it tells us about issues you care about, please reach out. Or join us on March 20, 2023 for a webinar. We believe that better information leads to better policy. These facts sheets are just one way that we hope to contribute.