Hazardous Waste Sites, Local Communities, and Census Data
March 1999

Premise | Background Studies | Waste Sites

Census Data
1990 Census | Historical Censuses
Census Updates | Future Censuses

Health Data | Lobbying Efforts


Last updated on March 22, 1999


Environmental Justice is the belief that all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic standing, deserve to live, work, and play in a healthy environment. -- Environmental Justice Group, the University of Michigan.

Tools Needed:


1. United States General Accounting Office. Hazardous and Nonhazardous Waste: Demographics of People Living Near Waste Facilities RCED 95-84. http://www.lib.umich.edu/govdocs/text/rced9584.txt

Special survey of municipal waste sites conducted in 1995. Report includes statistics. Concludes that there is no difference in population living near non-hazardous landfills but minorities tend to live near hazardous landfills. More research needed on health effects of hazardous landfills on minorities. Additional GAO Reports available through GPO Access

2. University of Michigan Environmental Justice Group. http://www.umich.edu/~umej/

Numerous links to environmental justice web sites. Conference program for its March 26-28, 1999 workshop.


Street maps of waste sites, street addresses and zip codes are important for tracking sub-county Census data.

3. Toxic Chemical Release Inventory (EPA). http://www.epa.gov/enviro/html/tris/tris_overview.html

Search by name of facility, address (zip code, county and state) or chemical to obtain list of information the amount of pollution generated by type of pollution. By going back to the main page, you can order a complete map with street names and facility information. For the most part, it is easier to use the Chemical Scorecard listed below.

4. Chemical Scorecard/Environmental Defense Fund (http://www.scorecard.org/ranking/

Ranks states, counties and zip codes by amount of chemical pollution. The top 100 counties and zip codes are ranked for both the U.S. and individual states. Click on area to obtain data on pollution by chemical or health effect. Includes maps of an area and reports on individual polluters. Lists street address and zip code of facility. Example of map

5. Superfund National Priorities List http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/index.htm

EPA's priorities for toxic waste cleanup. Click on state maps to identify concentrations of polluters. Example. By clicking on a symbol, you can obtain background information on the polluter. You can also search the data by address, zip code, or type of problem. The resulting maps (example) provide streets but not street names. Links to the individual polluter.

6. State Environmental Agencies. http://www.caprep.com/stagency.htm

Comprehensive listing of state environmental agencies, arranged by state. State agencies may have maps of waste sites.

Street Maps

7. MapQuest. http://www.mapquest.com/

Identify detailed street maps by address, zip code, county or city. Includes industrial parks. Example

8. Maps On Us. http://www.mapsonus.com/

Detailed street mapping and directions. Clear street names. If the National Priorities List hasn't given you a street address, you can search the Yellow Pages for the address, zip code, and a brief map. Example of city map.

Map Libraries

Large university and public libraries usually have specialists in geography, maps, and computerized mapping (GIS). CD-ROM mapping programs often have a combination of environmental identifiers as well as census mapping.

9. Using ArcView for Mapping Hazardous Waste Sites and Census Variables http://www.lib.umich.edu/maplib/NRE477/nre477.html.

Written by Kristi Jensen, University of Michigan Library, 1999. Most sophisticated commercial program for mapping environmental and census variables. Not all libraries will own.

10. A Brief Guide to Landview III. http://www.library.umass.edu/govdocs/cdguides/lviiiguide.html

Written by Julie Linden, University of Massachusetts, 1998. Government mapping program specifically meant for tracking environmental and population data. Includes street names of Census tract and block group boundaries. Available at many federal depository libraries. Example of Block Group Map.


100-Percent Items

Population Housing
Household relationship Number of units in structure
Sex Number of rooms in unit
Race Tenure (owned or rented)
Age Value of home
Marital status Rent paid
Hispanic origin Vacancy characteristics
... Congregate housing

Sample Items

Population Housing
School enrollment Year structure built
Educational attainment Year moved into residence
State or foreign country of birth Source of water
Citizenship and year of immigration Sewage disposal
Language spoken at home Heating fuel
Ancestry Plumbing and kitchen facilities
Place of residence 5 years ago Number of bedrooms
Veteran status Farm residence
Disability Telephone
Fertility Vehicles available
Place of work Condominium status
Journey to work Shelter costs, including
Year last worked Utilities
Industry ...
Occupation ...
Class of worker ...
Work experience in 1989 ...
Income/poverty in 1989 ...
Labor force status ...

Key factors to research: race, the elderly, poverty, unemployment, home value, ability to speak English, migration, vacancy rates. The Census does not cover deaths in a given year or individual disabilities.

Notes on the data:

  • Races are white, black, Asian, American Indian and other.

  • Hispanic is not a race so is usually covered in a separate table.

  • Labor force participation includes people who have jobs or want them. Reasons for not participating in the labor force include age, disability, family matters, retirement, school enrollment, etc.

  • Unemployment is calculated by dividing the people who want jobs but don't have them by the labor force.

  • Income is calculated for households (families, people living alone, people living together but not related), families (related by blood or marriage), individuals, and per capita (including children).

  • Median = half below level and half above level; mean = average.

  • Poverty rates are calculated by the Census Bureau using the family income and size of the family.

Census Geography
See also a Map Example

Metro Area
Census Tract
Block Group

Finding Census Data

Census Data for 1990 is available in libraries in paper and CD-ROM format. It is also on the internet through the Census CD-ROM Lookup (http://venus.census.gov/cdrom/lookup/ However, you MAY need to use a library for Census tract maps. Older censuses are only in paper in libraries. A listing of federal depository libraries which maintain paper copies of the Census appears at: http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/dpos/ldirect.html.

1990 Census

11. 1990 Census of Population.

General Population Characteristics provides the most detail on age, race, sex, marital status, and household relationship. There is one report for each state with data for states, counties, cities and townships. Social and Economic Characteristics has state reports with data for the state, counties, and cities of 2500+. It details education, occupation, employment, industry, commuting, disability, income, poverty, foreign born, ability to speak English, ethnicity, and residence five years ago. Example of Table Finding Guide

12. 1990 Census of Housing.

General Housing Characteristics provides owner v. renter occupancy, vacancy rates, housing value, and rent paid. There is one report for each state with data for counties and places of 1000+. Detailed Housing Characteristics covers age of homes, mortgage characteristics, rent as a percent of income, sewage, fuels, telephone availability. There is one report for each state with data for places of 2500+. Example of Table Finding Guide

13. 1990 Census of Population and Housing. Census Tracts.

One report for each Metropolitan Statistical Area with 100% and sample data for the metro area, counties, large cities, and individual census tracts. Includes age, race, marital status, income, poverty, education, language, housing value or rent, age of homes, commuting, and residence five years ago. Separate tables repeat data for race if more than 400 people of that race live in a given census tract. Example of Table. A table finding guide identifies individual pages.

To use the reports effectively, it is necessary to identify a census tract number of interest. This can be done in several ways:

14. Summary Tape File 3A CD-ROM.

Both population and housing variables for states, counties, cities and townships, census tracts, and block groups. Available at most federal depository libraries but essentially the same as the Census CD-ROM Lookup.

15. Census CD-ROM Lookup. http://venus.census.gov/cdrom/lookup/

250 population and housing variables for states, counties, cities, census tracts and block groups available through Summary Tape File 3A. Summary Tape File 3B has similar data for zip codes.
Steps for Census Tract Data:
  • Choose Summary Tape File 3A
  • Choose State/County AND Michigan. Submit.
  • Choose State/County/Tract AND Wayne County. Submit.
  • Choose Area Selected Below AND census tract numbers. Submit twice.
  • Choose variables and SUBMIT.
  • Choose output (HTML, spreadsheet, etc.)
  • Example

16. CIESIN Mapping Service. http://plue.sedac.ciesin.org/plue/ddviewer/

Basic Mapping Steps: (Non-Java)
  • Choose state and submit.
  • Choose county and submit.
  • At minimum, choose geographic level and variable; name the map; submit
  • "Attribute List" is the raw data in tabular format; "Gif" is the actual map
  • Example

Java 3.0: (Identifies Tract Number and Data)

  • Choose State/Get Counties
  • Select county/get tract
  • Select subject area/select individual variable/close
  • Submit job
  • Click on tract to identify number and get data

17. Census CD+Maps
CD-ROM has 1990 data for census tracts and block groups in all 50 states. Also provides mapping.

Basic Block Group Mapping

  • Click on Area/Geographic Area/Census Tracts
  • Choose State/County/Tract Numbers
  • Click on SubArea and choose Block Groups
  • Click on Counts/Tailored
  • Choose subject from top and bottom of screen
  • Click on Run/DBF File
  • Click on Run/Maps
  • See Census CD+Maps Guide or Map of Wyandotte area


18. Historic Census Data.

Data prior to 1990 is primarily available in paper copy at federal depository libraries. See above for lists of libraries. The structure is similar to 1990: a Census of Population, a Census of Housing, and Census Tract reports.

Special notes
    • There is no readily-available block group data prior to 1990.
    • Census tracts are often redefined or renumbered. You need to look at the maps for each Census. Usually the printed tract volume will provide comparability with previous censuses.
    • Household income was a new concept in 1980. Family income was commonly used through 1970.
    • Until 1980, races in tables were listed as White, Negro, and other.
    • Poverty was a new concept in 1970.
    • It is extremely important to compare economic data (a city, a tract) with the county and state to adjust for inflation. You can also adjust for inflation using the Consumer Price Index (http://stats.bls.gov/cpihome.htm but it is much less accurate. The average salary in 1950 was $3400. The inflation rate (442%) suggests a 1990 salary of $15,000 but the average salary was actually $33 ,000.


Most Census data is updated by marketing firms at the zip code or city level. The Census Bureau updates total population counts for cities; age, race and sex for counties and states.

19. CACI Sourcebook of Demographics for Every Zip Code

Annual estimates and projections of households, race, age, sex, and household income for zip codes.

20. Demographics USA

Current population estimates and projections, occupation, employment by industry, and sales. States, cities, and zip codes.

21. Editor and Publisher Market Guide

Current population, number of households, age, per capita income, and household income for cities, metropolitan areas and counties with daily newspapers.

22. Census Bureau Web Site

Total population estimates for places but most other data at national and state level only.

Population Estimates

Population Projections

Social and Demographic Characteristics

Housing and Household Economics


23. American Factfinder. (http://www.census.gov/dads/www)

The Year 2000 Population Census and the 1997 Economic Censuses will be distributed primarily on the Internet. Three approaches: pre-tabulated data, data extraction, and microdata manipulation.


24. Vital Statistics of the United States

Annual printed publication with the latest edition 1992. Volume 2B provides death statistics by over 70 causes for counties and cities of 10,000+. It is important to compare your county population size with Census data.

More current county data may be available from state health departments. The National Center for Health Statistics http://www.cdc.gov/nchswww/fastats/fastats.htm will provide links.

25. American Hospital Directory. http://www.ahd.com/

Includes Medicare data on disease treated by type for individual hospitals.

26. Local Sources

Interviews with neighborhood residents may be the best way to spot hidden problems, such as a large number of rare childhood cancers. Another alternative would be local newspaper files. Editor and Publisher identifies newspapers and provides web links when available.

27. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/

Describes toxic substances and their health effects. Searchable by substance, geography, and individual site.

28. Environmental Defense Fund. http://www.scorecard.org/health-effects/

Arranged by health effects (e.g. cardiovascular disease) with a list of toxicants causing the problem.


29. Superfund Community Tools. http://www.epa.gov/superfund/tools/index.htm

Describes how communities can become involved in cleaning up Superfund sites.

30. Environmental Defense Fund. http://www.scorecard.org/ranking/

Provides a list of environmental groups, government officials, volunteer, and networking opportunities under each state, county, zip code, or facility where a toxic problem exists.

31. State Environmental Agencies. http://www.caprep.com/stagency.htm

Comprehensive listing of state environmental agencies, arranged by state. State agencies may have maps of waste sites.

32. Contacting the Congress. http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/

Most updated directory of Congresspersons and committee assignments. Includes district as well as Washington offices, e-mail and fax numbers.

33. Federal Telephone Directories. http://www.info.gov/fed_directory/phone.shtml

Telephone numbers of federal agencies and links to their online directories. This can be supplemented by a list of agency web sites through Louisiana State University, http://www.lib.lsu.edu/gov/fedgov.html


  1. Use the Chemical Scorecard, http://www.scorecard.org/ranking/ to obtain the street address of pollution site

  2. Search the street address in the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council Geocode List, http://www.ffiec.gov/geocode/, to obtain the census tract number.

  3. Use the CIESIN MAPPING SERVICE Java Version 3.0, http://plue.sedac.ciesin.org/plue/ddviewer/ to map the census tracts. Note that this program identifies the tract number and data if you click on a tract.

  4. Go back to the Chemical Scorecard, http://www.scorecard.org/ranking/ for toxicity information and local lobbying contacts.

Grace York, Coordinator, Documents Center
The University of Michigan Library


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