Posted by: FBRuralDevelopment | 02/23/2011

USDA: Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America

The Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America , an online mapping tool created by USDA’s Economic Research Service, allows users to research 60 statistical conditions and trends at the county level in non-metro regions of the United States.

 According to the USDA press release: “The new Atlas will complement USDA’s efforts in promoting rural development and well-being by helping policy makers pinpoint the needs of particular regions, recognize their diversity, and build on their assets,” said Vilsack. “The Atlas is part of a broad USDA initiative to make relevant data easily accessible to the public, including researchers, journalists, public officials, and other professionals.”

 17 percent of the U.S. population live in nonmetropolitan America, in 2,000 of the US’s 3,143 counties. The press release states that “users can click on a county and view a pop-up box showing data on all the indicators in each of these four categories. In addition, users can view an indicator (e.g., employment data) for the entire country, or can zoom into specific regions, states, or sub-state areas, and pan across the U.S. at different scales on the map. Maps can be downloaded for use in documents and presentations, and data are accessible via downloadable spreadsheets.

 “The Atlas allows users to geographically compare selected states or regions using data on population, age structure, race and ethnicity, income, employment, agricultural well-being, and other measures. Regional planners in the rural Southwest, for example, could compare population trends in their area with counties or states in the Midwest. Maps can be filtered to show only counties of a certain type, such as those with high levels of manufacturing or with persistent poverty. For example, this option could be used to show high unemployment in manufacturing-dependent counties.

 “This web-based product assembles the latest county-level statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, USDA, and other Federal sources. Of particular note, the Atlas incorporates data from the first full set of county-level data in the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). Data from the various agencies are combined in four broad categories that users can select:

  • People—county demographic profiles, including age, race/ethnicity, education, family composition, population change, migration, and immigration.
  • Jobs—conditions and trends affecting the labor force, such as employment change, unemployment, industry, and occupational structure.
  • Agriculture—indicators of farm structure and the well-being of farm households, including farm size, income, sales, and tenure.
  • County typologies—ERS county classifications based on the rural-urban continuum, economic structure, and other key locational features, such as, landscape amenities, occupation types, persistent poverty, or population loss status.

 The Rural Atlas is similar to the USDA’s ERS  Food Environment Atlas , which maps U.S. counties by factors that reflect a communities’ access to food.

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