This is part two of a a two-part blog post. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, click here.
In Part 1 of this blog post, we discussed infographics related to Population, Industry, and Recreation in South Bend throughout its 150 years of existence. Next, we will tackle Education and Infrastructure/Transportation trends, and wrap up with a discussion of our methods in collecting the data and what we learned from this experience.
For many outsiders, the name “South Bend,” conjures thoughts of a certain university popularized by their football team and golden dome. So it’s no surprise that the city’s identity is somewhat tied to educational pursuits.
One interesting trend we found was the number of residents employed as teachers versus the number of people who attend school, as reported through the census. As the graph shows, the number of school attendees is down from the peak in 1970 (which is consistent with overall population change), but the number of people employed as teachers has risen steadily over the years. Studies have shown that a low student-to-teacher ratio can improve performance in the classroom, so this particular trend bodes well for South Bend-area students.
Arguably the most well-known school in South Bend is the University of Notre Dame, but there are several other colleges and universities in the area serving the South Bend community and visitors alike. We decided to compare the enrollment numbers at institutions of higher learning over time. (For the sake of this exercise, we are including Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College and Holy Cross College in our analysis, despite the fact that their postal addresses are in Notre Dame, IN.)
The University of Notre Dame has had a steady increase in enrollment since 1970, and both Indiana University South Bend and Ivy Tech Community College have seen enrollment increase over the years. Ivy Tech has had the largest jump in enrollment, perhaps as a reaction to the tech boom of recent years. In contrast, the enrollment at Saint Mary’s College and Holy Cross College have remained steady over the years, but we suspect this is by design as both schools pride themselves on their small, close-knit student bodies.
Lastly, we looked at the local public school system, South Bend Community School Corporation. The primary schools have a larger enrollment than either the intermediate or high school levels, but it is important to note that the primary schools enroll five grade levels (K-4), while intermediate and high schools enroll four grade levels.
Currently, there are more primary schools than intermediate or high schools, and seven of the ten newest school buildings are being used for primary schools.
Infrastructure and Transportation
No discussion of a city is complete without mentioning the city’s infrastructure. We looked at emergency services, means of transportation, and housing units and how they have changed over time.
After compiling this graph of emergency personnel in South Bend through the years, a couple of trends demanded further investigation. There was a sharp drop in emergency personnel between 2009 and 2010. According to this 2008 news article, the South Bend Police and Fire departments were tasked with cutting approximately 160 positions by 2010. This would probably account for the steep drop in emergency personnel. Another trend is the ratio of law enforcement officers to fire fighting/fire prevention workers. In 1910, there was a fairly even split; 52% were in fire fighting/prevention, while 48% were in law enforcement. By 2013, firefighters/prevention workers comprised 65% to only 35% in law enforcement.
We wanted to learn more about transportation trends over the years, and were able to find data on the modes of transportation South Bend residents took to work. We wanted to see if this has changed at all over time. Unsurprisingly, walking and taking public transportation to get to work have decreased over time, with the majority of people driving. One possible theory is that people are moving to neighborhoods that are farther from their workplaces. It would also be interesting to see where people lived/worked in 1960 compared with today to see if this theory holds any truth.
The graphic below shows the number of occupied dwellings, which includes all occupied apartments or family homes, in relation to the number of families, which is defined as a married couple with children. It is important to note that the census does not count a single person with children as a family, nor does it count a married couple without children as a family. We can see a clear correlation between the two measures between 1900 and 1940 After this point, the two measures deviate; the number of occupied dwellings sharply increases, then levels out over time, while the number of families increases more gradually for a time, before heading into a steady decline after 1960.
While we cannot say what has caused this trend of fewer families in relation to occupied housing units, we can make some guesses as to possible causes. The obvious one that comes to mind is that perhaps the number of “traditional” family units is decreasing in favor of different family structures—single parent families, couples without children, or unmarried parents with children. This trend could also reflect with a changing demographic in South Bend; an example would be an influx of young, unmarried professionals to the area, or a trend of families moving outside the city limits into neighboring suburbs.
Going through this exercise was an eye-opening experience for us (specifically those of us on the marketing team, who spearheaded this effort). The data collection process was time-consuming; it was great to have access to public records, but even seemingly “organized” data can be very messy in practice.
The graphic below shows how many megabytes of census data were downloaded by census year, and the total number of files downloaded for each year. As you can see, it was a lot of information to sift through! The 1990 and 2010 censuses required us to download the smallest amount of data by size. This is due to the fact that the information was in a truly digital format (as compared to older censuses, where the files available were essentially image files for every page, which takes up more file space.)
After collecting the data,we had to go through the process of finding information that was relevant to our project. In order to find useful data points, a large amount of manpower was required. In older census years, the records were not in any way searchable by computers; they were “digitized” only in the sense that the hard copies of the census records had been scanned and bundled into PDFs that were available for download. Even the more recent censuses varied in available content and formatting. This lack of standardization made direct, long-term comparisons more difficult to piece together. Because of this, it took some creative thinking on our part to discover ways to compare data points in a meaningful way—from choosing what kinds of data to show, discovering trends, and deciding how to best convey our findings with appropriate visuals.
This project was another reminder to us that access to data does not mean instant insights. As you can see in the graphic below, a lot of time and effort (and caffeine) went into finding relevant data points, making sense of them, and producing graphics that convey the information in a way that is easy to understand.
We hope you enjoyed our overview of South Bend through the years from a data perspective. At times, we were surprised by the information we uncovered, and at others, our existing suspicions were confirmed by the data. However, for each new insight we discovered, we found ourselves asking many more questions. In a way, data analysis is a never-ending process; in the age of data, there is always something new to discover.