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Common Information Needs

Socioeconomic Characteristics

Overview of Regional Solution top of page

In 2004, Socioeconomics Web Resource Page application was implemented. (“Phase Ib- Needs Satisfied With Existing Published Data Sources”)  It is organized around the concept of priority socioeconomic information needs that are organized into the following general categories: crime, demographics, employment locations, housing, K-12 school data, location of services, and transportation issues. Data sources that meet the following general specifications are identified: sub-city resolution, annual updates, and 10-year or longer times series. In 2009 significant additions were made driven by a University of Minnesota effort, funded by MnDOT, to identify data sources that could be useful for measuring the impact of transit improvements. Subsequently, a revised Regional Policy Statement was adopted by the MetroGIS Policy Board on January 27, 2010.

To learn more about the MetroGIS process, please see the About Information Needs page and the pages for each endorsed regional dataset.

Overview of MetroGIS's Socioeconomic Characteristics Information Need top of page

The information need Socioeconomic Characteristics was identified as one of thirteen original priority business information needs of the MetroGIS community. Click here to view the Business Object Framing Model Fragment for this information need. Click here for further information about MetroGIS's Business Information Needs initiative.

Work on a regional solution to this priority information need began in April 2002. The effort was divided into three phases:

Phase Ia - Improve the usability of specified 2000 data produced by the U.S. Census.
Phase Ib - Identify priority socioeconomic information needs that can be satisfactorily addressed with existing, published data sources.
Phase II - Investigate solutions to socioeconomic information needs that would measure the impact of transit improvements.  This phase opens the door to commercial data sources.

Phase Ia- Improve Usability of Specified Census Data: The Phase Ia workgroup completed its tasks in summer 2002. Its purpose was to improve access and usability (user friendliness) of data provided by the 2000 U.S. Census and reduce duplication of effort among organizations that use census information in similar ways. These objectives were accomplished by the MetroGIS workgroup working with the State Demographic Center and the University of Minnesota Libraries to develop help and tutorials to help the user analyze and map Census data. Some of the most popular data for the seven-county Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Area were extracted by the Metropolitan Council and are presented in several profiles by municipalities and census tracts. These profiles can be directly linked to County, City and Township Boundaries - 2000 data or to Census Geography 2000 data that have been aligned with locally-produced street centerline data (MetroGIS-endorsed regional TLG regional street centerline dataset), available on MetroGIS's DataFinder website. Alignment with the regional street centerline dataset facilitates interoperability with other MetroGIS-endorsed regional datasets and direct use with GIS technology.

Phase Ib - Needs Satisfied With Existing Published Data Sources: From April to November 2003, another workgroup, whose members were representative of the broad community, built upon the Phase Ia project. The goal of this effort was to define a way to decide which of the priority socioeconomic information needs of the MetroGIS community could be satisfactorily addressed with existing data sources, and create a means to help the user easily locate these sources. The workgroup documented its findings and recommendations in its Phase I Report, which was accepted by the MetroGIS Coordinating Committee on December 17, 2003. This report summarizes the components of its proposed regional solution for the Socioeconomic Characteristics of Areas priority information need that can be met with existing published data, a detailed evaluation of shortcomings with existing data related to priority information needs of the MetroGIS community, and provides direction to the Phase II workgroup to address some of these shortcomings.

The workgroup's members devised a rating method to identify the highest priority socioeconomic information needs as a group. The basis of their work was the detailed listing of socioeconomic information needs identified by the broad MetroGIS community in 1996. Individual group members, with appropriate expertise, then identified existing sources of published data to the extent they where known and existed for each of the priority information needs. From June 2003 to November 2003, the group conducted a suitability evaluation of each of the identified existing sources of data relative to three criteria - mapping resolution, time frequency and times series. A color-coded matrix was devised to readily illustrate the results of this analysis. The matrix illustrates the group median, as well as individual member suitability scores, and is included as an appendix to the Phase I Report.

The group then created and tested a web-based Resources Page to help data users search, by data source or data theme, for these "best available" existing data collected and available from many different organizations, which satisfactorily address priority socioeconomic information needs of the MetroGIS community. On January 28, 2004, the MetroGIS Policy Board authorized deployment of this Resources Page as a component of the regional solution to the socioeconomic information need. On October 27, 2004, the Policy Board adopted a regional policy statement that lists the custodian responsibilities necessary to maintain the currency of this Resources Page and acknowledged the University of Minnesota Population Center's acceptance of the regional custodian role.

The Resources Page categorizes identified data sources into the following general areas: crime, demographics, employment locations, housing, K-12 school data, location of services, and transportation issues. The cited "best available" sources of existing data each meet the following desired general characteristics: sub-city resolution, annual updates, and 10-year or longer times series. A metadata record, posted on MetroGIS DataFinder, points the user to this Resources Page. A number of keywords are embedded into this metadata record to improve the successfulness of user searches. The Resources Page also encourages the user to pass along suggestions for how to improve this resource.

The Phase Ib workgroup also agreed to monitor progress for funding of the American Community Survey and related Local Employment Dynamics (LED) programs proposed by the U.S. Census Bureau, assess user satisfaction over the next 6-9 months with the web-based Resources Page, and report back to the Coordinating Committee with any additional recommendations in mid- to late 2005.

Phase II - Data Needs Tied to Transit Impact Studies
This phase was originally intended to focus on datasets not freely available; i.e., commercial datasets.  Instead it was driven by the Transit Impact Research Program (TIRP) at the University of Minnesota.  Results were similar, but also included other free data available in 2009.  The effort was led by Will Craig, chair of the Phase I work group led this effort.

The TIRP project was intended to find data that would helpful to researchers looking at various aspects of transit improvements, starting with the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit line.  Researches at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs had documented those data needs in a 2006 report Inventory of Data and Research on the Economic and Community Impacts of the Hiawatha LRT.  Most of the data needs were already available in Datafinder’s Socioeconomic Research page.  A search was conducted for missing sources.  Another two data categories and 6 data sources were located and added.  At the same time, significant updates were made to 5 of the existing updates; for example adding building permit data to the Metropolitan Council data page and Commercial real estate was added to the Realtors page.
Dataset(s) that meet the Socioeconomic Characteristics Information Need top of page

Socioeconomic data that address priority information needs of the MetroGIS community are collected and distributed by many different organizations. Go to for a resource that allows the user to search by data theme or data source for existing sources of data that meet or exceed desired characteristics of socioeconomic data specified by the MetroGIS community.

This resource is organized around the concept of priority socioeconomic information needs that are organized into the following general categories: building permits, crime, demographics, employment locations, housing, K-12 school data, location of services, taxes, and transportation issues. Data sources that meet the following desired specifications were sought: sub-city resolution, annual updates, and 10-year or longer times series.

Over thirty different existing data sources are identified that meet or exceed minimum desired specifications for many identified common socioeconomic information needs, although documentation levels vary, as do access levels. At the best level, for example, the U.S. Census Population and Housing data are fully documented and files can be downloaded from the Internet. In some cases, data can be viewed online, but machine-readable data must be ordered from the supplier, sometimes for a small fee.

Background on MetroGIS's "Information Needs" Concept

top of page

A central part of MetroGIS's work is to identify common information needs of GIS users in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Area and facilitate the policy and data specifications needed to address each of these common information needs.
An investigation to understand these common needs was conducted by MetroGIS from September 1996 to March 1997. The result of this study was the identification of thirteen priority common information needs of the MetroGIS community. Since that time, a priority function of MetroGIS has been to facilitate the development and/or assembly of regional datasets needed to address each of these common information needs.
Each information need is addressed through a replicable process. In general, the process begins by assembling a team of content experts and through a facilitated group process (Peer Review Forum), the team begins with the business object framing model fragment to identify dataset(s) required to meet the information need. In some cases, this process takes place in a forum of content experts and in other cases it is not such a formalized process because the dataset(s) that meet the information need are intuitively recognized.
Once the dataset(s) required to meet an information need is identified, a working group of content experts is created to:
Refine the desired specifications identified at the Peer Review Forum,
Identify desired data standards and guidelines,
Identify desired roles and responsibilities for the custodian organization(s) - organizations responsible for data creation, maintenance, documentation, and distribution; and,
Identify candidate custodial organizations that have a business need and appropriate expertise to carry out the desired roles and responsibilities.
The process is complete when the Policy Board has adopted, as policy for the MetroGIS community, parameters defined through the stated tasks. The parameters are posted on a Web page for each “MetroGIS endorsed regional dataset”. Once an endorsed dataset is operational, MetroGIS monitors user satisfaction to continually enhance it.


   Page last updated on April 04, 2011. Home   |   Search   |   Contact Us