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Thread: Is third-party demographic data acceptable for use in an EIS?

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    Cyburbian The District's avatar
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    Is third-party demographic data acceptable for use in an EIS?

    I'm working on an EIS at the moment, and I'm not too familiar with the process. All of the examples I've found use Census data for population, race, income, etc. And while I can certainly access the Census data, it's obviously been a while since the last one and the ACS and other smaller Census studies don't cover this area of the country to the detail that I need

    Is there any reason why I wouldn't be able to use third party demographic data (Demographics Now, Claritas, etc.) to get more recent demographic data?

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    This may be an instance in which their data can be used with relative safety. Do take the time to question it, though. Are there areas of recent growth that may not be reflected? Unusual population groups that might skew estimates? If you intend to use anything beyond the basic demographic data, then you really need to pay attention. Their market reports, for instance are all but worthless.
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    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by The District View post
    I'm working on an EIS at the moment, and I'm not too familiar with the process. All of the examples I've found use Census data for population, race, income, etc. And while I can certainly access the Census data, it's obviously been a while since the last one and the ACS and other smaller Census studies don't cover this area of the country to the detail that I need

    Is there any reason why I wouldn't be able to use third party demographic data (Demographics Now, Claritas, etc.) to get more recent demographic data?
    As you probably know, census data is only one of 30-50 different data types that are needed for creating EISs. I am currently writing an entire environmental assessment from scratch for project in a very rural part of the state, so I don't have digital coverages for some NWI maps for example. I noted that there is only high quality/accurate data for some of the study area.

    When working with census data, which I assume is still for socioeconomics and environmental justice, you have a few options.

    1. Use census block groups instead of census blocks or census tracts.
    2. The US Census comes out with estimates every few years, although not always to the same level of detail as the official decennial numbers.
    3. If the project is in a rural area, there are probably fewer people, right? So there is less likely to be a socioeconomic/EJ impact than if you were bulldozing through a poor urban neighborhood. If the project is near the edge of a town, city, with more readily available census data, just change the study area. The study area is not the same for every single factor: it might be larger for land uses (with also have secondary impacts to transportation) than visual resources or hazardous materials (which are usually limited to the consturction zones for each alternative).

    As for which census resource to use:

    1. How personally confident are you in this third-party's data? I think as long as you document what sources you used that should be fine. You will never be able to determine EVERY impact in an EA. There are an infinite number of secondary and cumulative impacts.
    2. If there hasn't been that much population growth in the past decade, the new numbers are not going to be that much different than 5-10 years ago. So you could probably still use estimates from a few years ago.

    This is general advice. Obviously I would have to know more about the specific site first AND which state and federal agencies are involved, as many of them have their own requirements.
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