While many people are familiar with the United States Census every 10 years as mandated by the Constitution, over 100 different surveys are conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau each year. SBB Research Group summarizes vital information from Census.gov about these lesser-known—but significant—surveys in this educational series.
What are the Community Resilience Estimates?
The Census Bureau created the Community Resilience Estimates (CRE) in the summer of 2020 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The CRE estimates the extent to which counties are at risk of disease and disaster by combining data from existing datasets across the United States (i.e., American Community Survey microdata and Population Estimates Program). Each household falls into one of three groups: low risk (0 risk factors), medium risk (1-2 risk factors), and high risk (3 or more risk factors). The Census Bureau defines risk factors that decrease resilience within a household as:
an income-to-poverty ratio of less than 130%
one or fewer individuals between 18-64 years old living in the house
greater than 0.75 persons per room of the home
a communication barrier (i.e., no one completed high school and/or no one speaks English fluently)
residents 65 years or older
no one under 65 years of age is employed
no health insurance
no access to a vehicle
no internet access
The Census Bureau created a data visualization application to explore the percentages and counts of at-risk groups by county within states. These data can also be used to compare between states. For example, comparing two states prone to natural disasters, such as Florida and California, provides valuable information. In Florida, 30% of the households have 3 or more risk factors, 47% have 1-2 risk factors, and 22% have 0 risk factors. In Sumter and Glades counties, the plurality of households (>45%) have more than 3 risk factors making these the most vulnerable counties in Florida. Whereas in California, 27% of the households have 3 or more risk factors, 58% have 1-2 risk factors, and 15% have 0 risk factors. Even though the proportion of households with increased risk factors was greater in California compared to Florida, all the California counties were more resilient.
How are these Data Used?
Disasters and disease outbreaks happen and will continue to happen anywhere; therefore, measuring the resilience of areas is essential for reducing the devastation caused by these events. Federal and local government agencies, disaster relief foundations, and businesses use this dataset to identify areas most vulnerable to disaster. For example, the Census Bureau helps the Federal Emergency Management Agency by estimating vulnerable communities before hurricanes, flooding, tornados, etc. cause destruction. Because these data come from multiple sources, the Bureau estimates the impact of inequity on a community’s resilience, which helps explain why disasters have a more significant negative impact on minority communities. These data also provide essential information for health agencies to prepare for outbreaks and pandemics like COVID-19. These estimates are relatively new and therefore, primarily used for emergency preparedness. However, as the methods and data collection improve, these estimates could drive economic and legislative change to increase community resilience.