2010 Census: Racial diversity in Smith County (map!)

Note: It has been nearly six weeks since I last wrote on Hack Tyler. I expected some of this for the reasons outlined in my last post, however, the delay was extended by a two week period during which I thought I might not be moving to Tyler after all. This has turned out not to be the case. The exact dates are still undetermined, but I will be moving in the Fall.


Since starting Hack Tyler I’ve wanted to collaborate with locals who know the place better than I. For this post I invited Mike Rogers, a native of Tyler and recent graduate of the University of Richmond, to publish in tandem with me. Read his thoughtful reflections on race in Tyler at his blog, Highways and Hallowed Halls.

In the last decade the population of Tyler grew 15.8% to 96,900, not quite keeping pace with the growth of Texas or Smith County, both of which topped 20%. Over the same time period Tyler’s Hispanic population grew 55% to 20,511—the city’s most significant demographic shift of the decade. These and numerous other insights can be gleaned from the Summary File 1 (SF1) census release, which was made available for Texas on Thursday.

The SF1 is what is most commonly thought of as the “big” census release. It contains very granular population counts summarized by race, family status, age, sex, housing status and a variety other subjects. This is the data that is commonly used by newspapers, city planners, and demographers to make informative maps, plan services, and project population trends, respectively. I’ve spent much of the last six months analyzing census data for my work at the Chicago Tribune, which last week culminated in the release of detailed maps of same-sex relationships and children less than five years old for the Chicagoland area.

Over the last few evenings I’ve taken advantage of my access to the embargoed census data to use these same techniques to prepare race map for Tyler and wider Smith County. Many thanks to my fellow news applications hackers for allowing me to recycle our source code for generating map tiles and presenting them online. Click the screenshot to view the map. (Then come back and keep reading!)

2010 Census: Racial diversity in Smith County

2010 Census: Racial diversity in Smith County

Tyler, like most American cities, is visibly segregated along racial lines. Blacks and Hispanics occupy the areas north and west of downtown, though those two groups are themselves more integrated than I would have expected. (Chicago’s extreme segregation has hyper-sensitized me to trends such as these.) The eastern and southern parts of Tyler are predominantly white, though some areas are more racially integrated.

A few things to look for on the map:

  • Dense clusters of mixed race frequently indicate group quarters, such as the Smith County jail, or student housing on the UT Tyler campus. Others mark apartment buildings and developments of townhouses.
  • The racial trends continue beyond the city, with most Hispanics living to the north of the city and most whites living to the south.
  • Whites are both more spread out and more populous in the rural areas of Smith County, accounting for over 62% of the county’s total population (Tyler included).
  • White residents particularly cluster in the lakefront communities around Lake Tyler and Saline Bay.

Though its less visible in the map it’s also worth noting that the Asian population in Tyler spiked by over 125% to 1,807.  Though this represents only 1.9% of Tyler’s 2010 population it outpaces an already dramatic 71% surge in the total Asian population of Texas.

Want more census data? Be sure to check out the Texas Tribune’s excellent statewide coverage. If you want even more detail, a good place to start is census.ire.org, a public project of Investigative Reporters and Editors created to make working with census data easier. Follow this link to jump straight to Tyler and a subset of tables that informed the map and this post.

If there is a particular aspect of Tyler’s demography you’re interested in, please leave a comment. There are many more maps to be made.

Research and [Barriers to] Development

I’m somewhat reticent to admit that the pace of Hack Tyler development has slowed and will likely remain that way for a month or two. I spent the last week packing and cleaning. My wife and son have moved and transported the majority of my belongings with them. My things are now waiting for me in a storage unit in Tyler. As a consequence, I have only my netbook to hack on and no desk space to do even that.

I’m relatively used to limited accommodations, so I’m not particularly uncomfortable. However, it does take the edge off my capacity and encourages me to reach for other activities I haven’t found enough time for over the last year. I’ve also contracted some additional work to keep myself busy in the interim. In order not to completely lose momentum on this project, I’ve shifted my focus to research and communication tasks.

I’ve been in touch with Tyler Transit regarding Tyler on Time and learned a great deal of interesting things about their systems. Most notably, the current transit system is in the process of being completely overhauled and the existing bus routes will cease to exist sometime in August. The Transportation Operations Coordinator for the department has offered to provide me with updated shapefiles and timetable data in advance of the switchover, which will allow me to preemptively refactor Tyler On Time for the new routes. This opens up the possibility of Tyler on Time “launching” with the new routes, which seems eminently useful.

Unfortunately, this new data will not include timetable for all stops, but will continue to be “waypointed” as the current data is. This makes it very difficult to offer accurate intermediate stop times. I’ve yet to decide how to handle this, but I’m leaning toward to presentation solution rather than an algorithmic solution. Something like:

The nearest stop with scheduled departure times is 4 stops away, the next bus is scheduled to arrive at that stop in 5 minutes. The previous bus departed that stop 14 minutes ago.

Predicting stop times is likely not possible as Tyler is reputed to have significant traffic congestion problems, which would render estimates based on speed and distance inaccurate. I’m open to suggestions about how else I might handle this.

Learning about the details of Tyler’s changing transit system has also led me to a number of interesting documents related to Tyler’s municipal planning:

These documents present more information that I can possibly digest during the time I have left in Chicago, but I expect studying them to provide me with essential context for my own ideas. Additionally, the “Summary File 1” batch of census data for Texas will be released sometime in the next two months, providing further insight into the place and its people. I’ll be especially excited to write about this data, given how much time I’ve spent working with census data lately.

All in all, I expect I will write much less code this month than I did in June, but I will continue to inform myself and prepare for the things that come next. Best of all, I’ve now got my son’s comprehensive nightly reports:

It’s hot. We’re going to the pool again.