Data Surfer

Sites you need to see

Yesterday the Bee unveiled a very cool interactive map displaying California public projects funded by federal stimulus money. When you click on a county, you get get a list of individual projects, plus a bar chart showing the distribution (in percent) of the money in broad categories (health, education, water, transportation, housing, energy, etc.). In Sacramento, for example, the bulk of the county's $72.1 million is going to education projects.

The data behind this stimulus map comes from the Governor's recovery web site. The latter has its own interactive map, where you can zoom in to see the location of specific projects scattered around the state. For a national perspective, check out the maps available on the federal stimulus site.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's latest (2007) report on public school finances, New York tops the list with an average of $15,981 spent on each student. New York is followed by New Jersey ($15,691) and the District of Columbia ($14,324). States spending the least were Utah ($5,683), Idaho ($6,625) and Tennessee ($7,113). The national average is $9,666. Where does California rank among the states? It was 24th with $9,152.

The full school finance report is worth browsing if you're at all interested in where school revenues come from, how they're spent and how each state compares.

The immediate budget crisis tends to keep most of us from thinking about California's future problems. But at least one group, the Public Policy Institute of California, wants policymakers to remember the state's long-term planning challenges. They've prepared California 2025, a briefing kit summarizing data projections in eight key areas (budget, climate change, economy, education, population, transportation, water and workforce).

On the population front, California is projected to grow to nearly 50 million by 2025. The interior portions of the state will grow faster than coastal ones. The citizenry will continue to diversify with Latinos becoming the largest ethnic group. And the percentage of people over 65 will jump from 11 percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2025.  

In the interests of blog transparency, I ought to acknowledge one of the top sources I use to write these I-Tool Tips. Docuticker is a comprehensive daily update of new research reports from government agencies, universities, NGOs, think tanks, and other public interest groups." Every day the blog provides summaries and links to an average of ten reports typicaly covering a broad range of subject matter (economy, government, health, public opinion, crime, transportation, and much more). It's is a terrific tool for keeping abreast of the latest research with a heavy emphasis on statistical data.

Docuticker was founded by Gary Price, a librarian and a prominent writer/lecturer on Internet research, search engines and the so-called "Invisible Web." He manages a companion blog site, Resource Shelf, which aggregates interesting and important information collections librarians discover online.

Every year the federal government grants refugee and asylum status to "persons who have been persecuted or who have a well-founded fear of persecution" in their native countries. The legal difference between a "refugee" and an "asylee" is the former requests refuge outside the United States, while the latter requests it after entering this country.

The U.S. Office of Immigration Statistics compiles data on these two groups. Its latest report indicates that 60,108 persons were admitted to the United States as refugees in 2008. The leading countries of origin were Bhutan, Burma and Iraq. The leading countries of origin for the 12,187 asylees were Colombia, China and Haiti. OIS statstics are broken out by age, gender, marital and parent status and state of residence. Almost 16 percent of the 2008 refugees settled in California, followed by Texas with 8.5 percent. Likewise, California is the leading state of residence for the 2008 asylees (34.3 percent), followed by Florida (19.7 percent).

Today's Bee story about a summer camp that caters to children of atheists and other nonbelievers has gotten a lot of attention. Religion writer Jennifer Garza notes that only 1.6 percent of the adult population consider themselves atheists (and 2.4 percent agnostic). Those stats come from the 2007 Pew Forum Religious Landscape Survey, which is based on interviews with over 35,000 Americans, 18 and over. A summary table shows religious affiliation is diverse in the United States, though 78.4 pecent of adults are Christian (including 51.3 percent Protestant and 23.9 percent Catholic). The full 143-page report breaks out the affiliation data by such things as gender, age, geography, education, income, race, ethnicity, marital status, offspring, etc. The survey also tracks people who have changed affiliations and calculates "winners" and "losers" among the faiths.

The Treasury Department annouonced today that the U.S. deficit in June was $94.3 billion. That pushed the total deficit for the current fiscal year (beginning on Oct. 1) past a record $1.1 trillion.

The Monthly Treasury Statement is a detailed report on the receipts, outlays and deficit of the U.S. Government. Included on that web page is a chart of monthly deficit figures from Oct. 1980 to the present.

The New York Times has analyzed the federal stimulus money earmarked for some 5,274 transportation projects around the country. The paper concluded that although two-thirds of the nation's people live in cities and surrounding regions (with the worst roads and traffic jams), far less than two-thirds of the stimulus funding is going to metropolitan areas. In fact, the largest 100 MSAs will get less than half of the $26.6 billion allocated for bridges, highways and other transportation projects. is California government's web portal for reporting federal stimulus granted to the state. You can use an interactive map for tracking projects by type (education, energy, water, etc.) or geography (county, city, congressional district, etc.). Click on a "paddle" to see information on a specific project. You can also download data into a spreadsheet for further study. On the transportation front, there are 61 projects in the state totalling $2.6 billion. Without deeper analysis, it's difficult to know how much of the money is going to rural versus urban areas, but on the face of it, it seems more is going to less populated counties.


sotomayor.jpgThe American Bar Association, the main national lawyers group, unanimously rated Sonia Sotomayor as "well-qualified" to serve as an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. It falls to the ABA's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary to examine the professional qualifications of each choice "to support and encourage the selection of the best-qualified persons for the federal judiciary. It restricts its evaluation to issues bearing on professional qualifications and does not consider a nominee's philosophy or ideology."

The ABA conducts extensive interviews and careful study of opinions to determine it's ratings ("well-qualified," "qualified" and "not qualified"). If you're curious about the scores of other judicial candidates, the ABA web site has rating charts going back to the 101st Congress (1989-90). Of the five sitting Supreme Court Justices whose nominations fall within that period (John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas), only Thomas didn't get a "well qualified" rating (he received a "qualified").


As if the state didn't have enough to worry about, the Fitch credit rating company recently downgraded California's general obligation bonds from "A" to "A-". Fitch lowered the rating, citing "the magnitude of the State's financial and institutional challenges and persistent economic and revenue weakening."

Of course, the State Treasurer keeps track of the gyrations in California's credit-worthiness. His web site includes a chart showing changes in bond ratings by Fitch and its competitors, Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor's. S&P's ratings go all the way back to 1938. Look here for an explanation of each of the ratings codes.

The U.S. Census today released its latest place-level population estimates. New Orleans is the fastest growing town, increasing by 8.24 percent between from July 1, 2007 to July 1, 2008. Though increasing at a good clip, the Big Easy is nowhere near pre-Katrina levels.

Roseville, the sixth fastest in the nation, leads the state with 3.84 percent growth. Two other California towns are in the top 25 U.S. cities: Irvine (3.83 percent) and Victorville (3.30 percent).

About Data Surfer

It's all about information -- statistics, documents and data of all types that help us understand the world, make informed decisions and monitor government. It's about empowering citizens with tools and sources so they can conduct their own investigative research. This blog is a place to discuss information that's available on the Internet. What's relevant, useful, valid and accurate -- and what's not.

We know the Sacramento region is home to knowledgeable people who use online information in their respective fields. We want to hear from you. Please tell us what you think of the data we use in stories and post on The Bee's website. And share tips about online resources you think are valuable to this blog's readers. Post comments on this blog or contact Pete Basofin directly at

June 2010

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