Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

Two Minute Tips

Use census data to cover Valentine’s Day in your community

February 1, 2016

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Chances are your newsroom runs topical feature stories around each holiday. Census data provides a valuable tool to help you delve deeper and find more interesting angles for these ongoing, seasonal stories.

With Valentine’s Day near, we’ll use it as an example.

The first approach towards a data-heavy Valentine’s Day feature is consult the industries in the business of love. (Think: florists, chocolate makers and jewelers.)

For example, I might use census data to note roughly 98 florists exist in the greater Phoenix metro area (where I’m based) employing roughly 455 employees. Those working in the floral industry in Phoenix make, on average, $17,736 annually, 5 percent more than the national average of such workers: $16,812.

I gathered the information from the most recent County Business Patterns, locally focused business data compiled by the Census Bureau tracking employment data for just about any industry. To drill down to the data for your geographic location: Go to the Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder page for national florist data and use the “Add/Remove Geographies” button to filter.*

Similarly, I could note those 455 florists make considerably less than the roughly 1,605 people employed in the jewelry industry in the Phoenix metro area. They earn, on average, $31,345 each year, close to the national average of $31,142.

You can use the same method for the florist data again with the data from the jewelry industry ** and repeat with other relevant sectors.  

Want to show trends over time? Compare year-over-year figures by toggling through the same data from previous years (on the left-hand side of the American Fact Finder interface). 

But Valentine’s Day is about more than just what gets purchased. For instance, census data can also give some insights into marriage trends, with a local angle. In Arizona, for example, 46.8 percent of the population is married, which is slightly less than the national figure of 47.7 percent.***

One interesting fact about Arizona lies within the Census Bureau’s data on those who marry more than once. Compared to the rest of the county, a slightly smaller portion of the population is married, but slightly more of the population is on a second or third marriage.

Of those in Arizona who do marry, census data tells us that the median age for a first marriage is 29.5 for men and 27.4 for women, almost exactly in line with the national average of 29.5 for men and 27.6 for women.

To find comparable data for your local area, use the American Fact Finder’s geography selection tool from the page on marriage age or percent of population married, just as you did with the industry data above.

Like the national average too, Arizonans are waiting longer to get married, as seen by clicking back through the years of data.

How would you ever think to look for romance angles in the Census?

I frequently tell those interested in reporting on Census data to sign up for the email alerts. The topics discussed here, along with others relating to Valentine’s Day, came in one such recent email. Sign up to get more topical data ideas year-round.

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