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July/August 2002

Inside This Issue:

 

Don't Be Afraid of the Data
There are three kinds of lies, according to 19th Century British Statesman and Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

While some may wholeheartedly agree with the statesman's comment, others counter that statistics are quite useful. After all, they argue, statistics help us to describe our communities, compare our community with others and identify emerging trends.

To support the notion that statistics are useful and necessary tools, and to help those who may not be as familiar with gathering and using data as they would like, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania has developed a data users guide, called Stats for Scaredy-Cats, A How-To Guide for Rural Data Users.

The guide, geared for the novice data user or those who would like a quick reminder course in gathering and using data, is now available from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

Numbers are our friends
The Center for Rural Pennsylvania receives almost daily requests from grant writers, government officials and employees, businesses, and the general public for data and statistics about rural Pennsylvania and specific counties, municipalities and places.

At times, some of these folks aren't sure what to make of the data they have gathered or how they can apply the data to the project they are working on. This is where the guide may help.

The guide is separated into three sections: understanding data, working with data and gathering data. The first section offers definitions, an explanation of the various codes used by government and other agencies, and of data limitations.

To help users understand how they may work with the data, the guide offers details on comparing variables and time periods, and finally offers advice on choosing data formats.

Eagerly awaiting the data
Stats for Scaredy-Cats was developed with the 2000 Census in mind. With all of the new data that has been released, and the data yet to come, the Center wanted to offer data users a type of "cheat-sheet" for working with all of the new information.

Some of the most interesting facts, at least in the eyes of rural Pennsylvanians, are soon to hit the streets. The socio-economic data is due to be released later this summer, which means that the Census Bureau will publish urban and rural information for every Census geography. Individuals will then be able to look up what percentage of any defined area is urban and what percentage is rural.

Remember that since urban areas do not necessarily follow municipal or other legal or statistical boundaries, geographic entities - Census tracts, counties, metropolitan areas, and the area outside metropolitan areas - will often contain both urban and rural territory, population, and housing units.

After the 1990 Census, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania created a system of designating an entire geographic entity, like a county or municipality, as rural or urban. Currently, the criteria states that if more than 50 percent of the population is rural, according to the Census, the area is considered rural. Like wise, if more than 50 percent is urban, it is called urban. Based on these criteria and the 1990 Census data, nearly 72 percent of Pennsylvania's municipalities are considered rural, as well as 42 of its 67 counties.

Now that the Census Bureau's rural and urban definitions are changing, so may the Center's manner of designating a geographic entity.

Let's talk rural
In October, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania will host a series of half-day discussions around the state to gather input from data users to most accurately determine a system of applying rural and urban designations. The measures for such designations will be simple and will attempt to show a true picture of the state's rural areas. Criteria may include total population, population density, metro/ non-metro status and other factors.

So far, the Center has identified six locations for the discussions: Harrisburg, Lock Haven, Franklin, Towanda, Greensburg and a site in Southeast Pennsylvania.

Center for Rural Pennsylvania Board Treasurer Senator Mary Jo White, and Board members Representative Mike Hanna and Dr. Craig Willis will be the hosts at the Franklin, Venango County and Lock Haven, Clinton County sites, respectively. See the box below for dates, sites and times.

Rural Discussion Dates, Sites
October 8 - Harrisburg, Dauphin Co. 9 am - noon
October 10 - Franklin, Venango Co. 9 am - noon
October 11 - Lock Haven, Clinton Co. 2 pm - 5 pm
October 15 - Greensburg, Westmoreland Co. TBA
October 17 - Towanda, Bradford Co. 1 pm - 5 pm
October 25 - West Chester, Chester Co. 1 pm - 5 pm

The Center will announce more specific information, including workshop times and locations on its website, at www.ruralpa.org, and in the September/October issue of Rural Perspectives.

Want more info?
In the meantime, data users are encouraged to call the Center for a copy of Stats for Scaredy Cats, A How-To Guide for Rural Data Users at (717) 787-9555 or email info@ruralpa.org.

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Chairman's Message
When I hear the word "statistics," I generally break out in a cold sweat, remembering the college course by the same name that caused me many long nights of study and confusion. When lists and columns of numbers appear before us, they tend to cause an involuntary reaction, whether verbal or physical, that indicate extreme stress! Expressions of this automatic reflex syndrome can include the glazing over of eyes, hair twisting, hand wringing, grimaces, and shudders, accompanied by variations of the word "yuck." Of course, there are exceptions to this rule of nature, including my college roommate who majored in math. But, for most of us, numbers, numbers, and more numbers add confusion rather than clarity to an issue.

To help those of us who are numerically challenged, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania has developed a guide to help people under-stand numbers. This is especially important with the release of the 2000 Census and the soon-to-be-released socio-economic data. Since the Center deals with numbers, and questions about numbers, every day, we thought this guide could help everyone understand what the numbers mean for their communities, how the numbers can be used to tell a story about their region, or what the numbers can possibly tell them about the future.

Stats for Scaredy-Cats: A How-To Guide for Rural Data Users provides basic answers on gathering and understanding data. The guide, high-lighted in our feature story, is de-signed to help ease the apprehension people may have when working with numbers. Contact us for your copy.

Big numbers were included in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, the federal Farm Bill that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in May. This act outlines the federal government's priorities and programs for agriculture, farm credit, nutrition assistance, conservation, rural development, extension research/education, and other agricultural issues. Highlights of the Farm Bill can be found on page 3 or by logging onto the U.S. Department of Agriculture's website at www.usda.gov/farmbill/.

As the summer weather once again reminds us of the variability in water supplies, the Pennsylvania General Assembly is joining with other organizations in reviewing our Commonwealth's policies on how to ensure sufficient supplies of quality water. A long-time interest group on water issues is the League of Women Voters. Through their Water Resources Education Network (WREN), the League provides rural community groups with grant funds to educate residents about surface and ground water in Pennsylvania. Learn more about this successful program on page 5 of Rural Perspectives.

Summertime is the traditional time for family vacations. In Pennsylvania, a number of agencies are working together to enhance and promote heritage tourism. A strategic plan is in the works to bring together our commonwealth's plans and goals for this important part of our second largest industry. Read more about this task force on page 4.

As you make plans for the fall, try to save one of the dates for a half-day session to share information with the Center for Rural Pennsylvania on the 2000 Census and how rural and urban designations are being applied to our commonwealth's data. Turn to page 3 for the dates and locations, and look for details in our September/October issue of Rural Perspectives. Until then, have a great summer and enjoy the wonders of Penn's Woods.

Representative Sheila Miller

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Federal Farm Bill Becomes Law
In May, President George W. Bush signed into the law the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. Better known as the Farm Bill, this act outlines the federal government's priorities and programs in the areas of agriculture, farm credit, nutrition assistance, conservation, rural development, extension research/education, and other agricultural issues. The provisions within this act will remain in affect until the year 2007.

Among the more notable rural development provisions of the act are:

In addition to these programs, Congress authorized existing water and sewage programs and provided funding for children's day care facilities and Business and Industry Loan Programs. Congress also established a program to assist in the restoration of historic barns. Congress will need to appropriate the release of funds for some of the programs created by the act.

For more information on the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, please go to the USDA website at www.usda.gov/farmbill/.

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Heritage Tourism Planning Effort Takes Off
What began two years ago as an effort to bring greater focus and attention to Pennsylvania heritage tourism has grown into a statewide planning process with multiple state agencies, associations and industry representatives supporting the cause. In the spring of 2000, more than 200 people attended a heritage tourism summit held in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Tourism and Lodging Association's Annual Conference in Monroeville. Over the summer months of that year, four regional workshops were held to gather further input for the initial planning phase. Those efforts resulted in the May 2001 publication, Moving Heritage Tourism Forward in Pennsylvania, which is a blueprint of how Pennsylvania can continue its prominent role in national heritage tourism and how it may further reap significant economic and quality of life benefits through its number two industry.

The blueprint addresses seven major elements: identification of Pennsylvania's heritage resources; strategies to promote preservation and development of heritage resources; standards to guide preservation, interpretation and development of visitor service infrastructure; an aggressive regional marketing campaign; technical assistance and training for heritage tourism organizations, sites, and practitioners; business development opportunities; and a strong education and awareness initiative.

With more than 2,500 copies of the document in distribution, the reaction has been favorable and the momentum continues. In late 2001, the state Departments of Community and Economic Development and Conservation and Natural Resources, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, and the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, the core partners, agreed to support the next phase of the strategic plan by securing the services of an independent consultant to take the blueprint and refine and develop it for actual implementation.

Additional partners, including the Westsylvania Heritage Development Corporation, the Pennsylvania Heritage Parks Association and the Pennsylvania Tourism and Lodging Association, guaranteed the process could financially be undertaken and the group issued a call for proposals.

Mary Means and Associates of Alexandria, VA, one of five applicants, was selected as the planning consultant. Mary brings over 25 years of professional experience in preservation, heritage development, tourism, and strategic planning and has worked extensively in Pennsylvania.

After an initial meeting with the funding partners in April 2002, Mary and her team met with the newly formed Heritage Tourism Task Force on May 29, 2002 in Harrisburg. The Task Force is comprised of almost 50 people representing the tourism industry, museums, heritage parks, arts and culture, tourist promotion agencies, economic development, state and local governments, and the travel and lodging industry.

From the Task Force meeting, the consultants are taking the original seven major elements and making appropriate refinements and enhancements. Key interviews with other stakeholders will provide additional input for the preparation of a series of white papers to be presented at regional workshops across the state. The Task Force will meet again to establish a 10-year heritage tourism strategy. Additional meetings with key state officials, along with regional meetings, will lead to a final report and action plan for presentation in February 2003.

The Pennsylvania Tourism and Lodging Association will offer information through its website so that all documents are available for review and comment. That phase of the public communication process will be announced when it is finalized.

For more information about the Heritage Tourism Strategic Planning Process, call Barry Denk, director of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania and chairman of the project, at (717) 787-9555 or email denkb@ruralpa.org.

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WREN Funds Community Water Education Projects
Community coalition groups from across the state have received grant funds to carry out education projects in the coming year by the League of Women Voters' Pennsylvania Water Resources Education Network (WREN). WREN is a nonpartisan, informal collaboration of organizations and public officials working for the protection and management of Pennsylvania's surface and ground water resources through education and informed policy making.

Funding for the Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Grants comes from Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for activities that will either address non-point source pollution issues on a watershed basis or help protect sources of drinking water.

The successful grantees and their grant awards and projects are listed below.

Watershed Protection

Drinking Water Protection

For more information about the WREN Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Grants, contact Sherene Hess, WREN Project Director at (724) 465-4978 or email: sherenehess@yourinter.net. Information about WREN is also available at http://pa.lwv.org/wren/.

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Did You Know . . .

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Update: Census 2000
Urbanized Areas and Urban Clusters
Not only does the Decennial Census give us data, it also gives us urban and rural classifications so that we can analyze the data for these very different groups of population. In the May/June issue of Rural Perspectives, we looked at the new definitions, and now we have some real numbers to plug in.

The Census Bureau recently released the names and populations of all Urban Areas (both Urbanized Areas and Urban Clusters) in the nation. This information will be coupled with the geographic boundaries of each area and will be used to publish the percentage of urban and rural numbers for any Census geography. These figures will become available between June and September 2002 with the release of the SF3 socio-economic data.

There are 22 Urbanized Areas in Pennsylvania compared to 20 after the 1990 Census. Many Urbanized Areas encompass parts of more than one state so several of the areas listed below are not Pennsylvania places. The names in bold type are new Urbanized Areas for 2000. There are 8.2 million residents in Pennsylvania's Urbanized Areas.

Pennsylvania's Urbanized Areas

Allentown/Bethlehem
Altoona
Binghamton
Erie
Hagerstown
Harrisburg
Hazleton
Johnstown
Lancaster
Lebanon
Monessen
Philadelphia
Pittsburgh
Pottstown
Reading
Scranton
State College
Uniontown/Connellsville
Weirton/Steubenville
Williamsport
York
Youngstown

There are 120 Urban Clusters in Pennsylvania from A (Albion) to Z (Zelienople), which are home to 1.25 million residents. The populations that do not live in Urban Areas are considered rural. The commonwealth's 2.8 million rural residents now rank the state third in the nation for total rural population, after Texas and North Carolina. The next Census information release we'll be looking for is the complete socio-economic sample data (the SF3 file) due out between June and September 2002.

For more Census 2000 information, visit the U.S. Census Bureau's website at www.census.gov or call the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at (717) 787-9555.

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The Center of It All
Where is the center of Pennsylvania according to population? Let's use our imagination to answer that question… Imagine that Pennsylvania is a flat map and an identical weight is placed at the residence of every person in Pennsylvania. The map we see would balance somewhere in the middle of Miller Township in Perry County. The United States Census Bureau calls this point the "mean center of population." (See map below.)

This is different than the median center point, which is where half of the population lives north and half lives south, as well as half living east and half living west. The median point is less telling because, for example, the entire population of Philadelphia could move to Harrisburg and the point would not change since that population would still be in the southeast quadrant. The mean point or "balance" point would certainly move quite a bit, however.

To learn how the mean center of population has changed in Pennsylvania over the years, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania collected data and calculated movements based on information drawn from five decennial censuses. We found that, while the point didn't move far between 1950 and 2000, it did follow a general southeast pattern.

By the way, in case you're wondering: the Census Bureau published the latitude and longitude of the center population point of the nation, which is in northern Davies County, Indiana.

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Just the Facts: Diplomas in Hand
Educational attainment rates in rural Pennsylvania are improving. According to the 2000 Census, which recorded the highest level of education attainment for persons 25 years old and older, the percentage of rural residents without a high school diploma has fallen steadily since 1980.

From 1980 to 2000, this percentage has dropped by almost one-fifth from 38 percent to 20 percent. More than 800,000 rural Pennsylvanians had a high school diploma as the highest form of education achieved in 2000, a 28 percent change from 1980.

The percentage of the adult rural population that reported having a bachelor's degree increased from 7 percent in 1990 to more than 9 percent in 2000.

Finally, rural residents with four or more years of college increased markedly. Between 1980 and 2000, the number of rural residents that had attained this level of education increased more than 90 percent. The percentage of rural Pennsylvanians with four or more years of college grew from 9 percent in 1980 to more than 14 percent in 2000.

Pennsylvania's rural counties are also seeing a drop in the numbers of those without a high school diploma or its equivalent. In 2000, approximately 350,000 of rural residents age 25 years and older did not have a high school diploma or its equivalent, down 8 percentage points since 1990.

Statewide, almost 1.5 million residents age 25 years or older, or 18 percent of Pennsylvanians, have not received a high school diploma or its equivalent.

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Calling on all Businesses to Participate in the Economic Census
You know all that great information you can get from the Center for Rural Pennsylvania and other sources about business and industry in the nation, states, and counties? Much of that data comes from the Economic Census conducted by the Census Bureau every five years. The next Economic Census is the 2002, which will be conducted in 2003 to provide statistics on the year 2002. Be sure to watch for and fill out the questionnaire so that the data the world gets from that census is as complete and accurate as possible. Don't worry, as in every Census Bureau survey, all individual responses are confidential. To learn more about or to get data from the Economic Census or another Census Bureau survey, contact the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

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