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Archive for the ‘Public Data Sets’ Category

Report Accents Ups, Downs of WA’s Economic Climate

by Matt Rosenberg December 23rd, 2013

Every year Washington’s economic data unit takes a good look at where the state ranks nationally on more than 40 key performance measures, and the latest report card came out late last week. It shows that in 2012 Washington had the cheapest business electricity in the nation, the third cleanest drinking water systems, was fifth best on research and development spending, remained third in foreign exports, and was in the top quintile on per capita visits to state parks and recreation areas. But our performance lagged on unemployment insurance and worker’s compensation costs, unemployment rate, condition of interstate highways, and college-going rates. We could also do better on air quality. Overall, our state leans more toward the second-tier of five, than first, the report suggests.

These are among the takeaways from the Washington State Economic Climate Study for 2013, issued December 20 by the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. The idea of digging into the data, says the council, is that business is responsible for increasing productivity, but government policies help set the table for success. The study includes several dozen 50-state rankings on core indicators drawn mainly from blue-chip federal government data sources for the most recent and the four preceding years, plus explanations of how the measures are calculated and why they matter. Following are some highlights.


Selected WA Rankings for the 50 states – Source: WA ERFC, Dec. 2013
‘08 ‘09 ‘10 ‘11 ‘12 Ave.
Drinking Water 8 2 1 1 3 1
Elec. Prices – Cmmrcl./Indstrl. 5 1 1 2 1 2
Exports 3 2 3 3 3 3
Exports, No Jets 6 8 8 8 7 9
State Parks & Rec. Site Visits 5 5 5 7 8 5
Toxins Released 15 6 12 10 10 11
Air Quality 1 23 23 25 22 22
College-Going – 2 & 4-yr. schools 24 24 27 28 30 28
Unemp. Rate 25 32 35 35 33 33
Unemp. Costs 44 42 46 39 28 42

Some Strong Points
Blessed with abundant hydropower, Washington’s weighted average industrial and commercial price of electricity per kilowatt hour in 2012 was 6.17 cents, the lowest in the nation. Idaho was next lowest at 6.27 cents. At the opposite end of the scale, highest prices after Hawaii and Alaska were in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and California. It was the third of the last five years that Washington had the lowest cost.

Exports
Washington in 2012 also held its rank as third greatest exporter in the U.S. measured in export dollar value as a percent of state personal income; bested only by Louisiana and Texas. Using that same yardstick but filtering out transportation equipment including Boeing foreign jet deliveries, the state ranked seventh in exports last year behind Louisiana, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Vermont and Alaska. The export data only includes trade in goods that are physically shipped, ruling out some software exports including most by Microsoft.

Clean Drinking Water
The state last year also ranked third lowest of 50 in percent of its population – just one-fifth of one percent – that was served by drinking water systems which were cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, either for exceeding maximum allowed levels of microbial, chemical or radiological contaminants under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act; or for violations of prescribed drinking water treatment methods. Only New Hampshire and Hawaii ranked better in 2012 and Washington is number one on the measure over the last five years combined, improving markedly since 2008 when it was just eighth best, according to the ERFC 2013 report.

Per Capita R & D Spending
Powered more by the private sector than government, Washington was fifth nationally in 2012 in total per capita research and development spending, exceeded only by Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Delaware. Washington’s five-year average rank is fifth.

State Parks Visits
The per capita rate of visits to state parks and state recreation sites in 2012 was far and away the highest in Oregon, followed by South Dakota, Hawaii, Alaska, Nebraska, Wyoming and Washington. The measure is based on total state parks and rec site visits including by tourists, versus the state’s population. Washington’s running five-year national rank is fifth.

Weak Spots
But though Washington did well in some areas, it has room to improve its competitive standing in others, according to the Council’s new report.

Challenges include unemployment insurance costs, worker’s compensation costs, and unemployment rate.

Some High Costs of Doing Business; Plus High Unemployment
Washington slid in 2012 to 38th from 17th in 2008 in controlling the dollar amount of worker’s compensation costs per $100 of payroll. Over the last five years its average ranking is 20th.

It is improving somewhat in unemployment insurance cost contributions collected from employers as a percent of total wages of covered employees, from 44th best in 2008 to 28th best in 2012 but its five-year average ranking is still 42nd.

Washington’s unemployment rate of 8.2 percent in 2012 was only 33rd best in the U.S., the same as its five-year average ranking in that measure.

Hurting Interstates
Our interstate highways are hurting, at least relatively. According to the new ERFC report, nearly seven percent of Washington interstate highway miles were in poor condition in 2011, the most recent year for which data were available. This puts the Evergreen State 44th of 50, a marked drop from the next most recent annual measurement in 2009 when it was 19th.

Not Competitive in College Enrollment
The state’s combined participation rate in two- and four-year colleges was another weak spot. Nationally, 6.4 percent of the population aged 18 and over is enrolled in two- or four-year colleges, versus 6 percent in Washington last year. That put the state 30th of 50, with a five-year average ranking of 28th.

Middling air quality
On air quality we ranked 22nd in 2012. The measure was percent of state population living in so-called “non-attainment areas” where the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards aren’t met. Metropolitan regions must for three years running meet NAAQS benchmarks on carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide in order to avoid being classified as “non-attainment” areas. The state ranked first in 2008 but in every year since has hovered between 22nd and 25th.

Overall, the ERFC report suggests Washington comes out in the wash looking pretty much like a second-tier state, but that’s out of five tiers, or quintiles which divide the 50 states on individual and aggregate performance metrics. Washington’s five-year average combined ranking is 18th of 50 states in 16 “innovation driver metrics” in contrast to a new report from Bloomberg News based on seven metrics and one year that ranks Washington first in innovation.

The state ERFC report puts Washington ninth of 50 over five years, or first tier, in five “business performance” measures; but 21st, or high in the third tier, over five years on seven economic growth and competitiveness indicators. On 10 combined quality of life measures over five years, Washington ranked 16th, or second tier. A handful of measures in the report were not for 50 states, but major metro regions instead.


Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

WA Transit Agencies Lag on Fare-box Recovery Ratios

by Matt Rosenberg December 9th, 2013

Washington state public transit agencies in 2012 badly lagged the national average in paying their own way for operating costs. Reports from the Washington State Department of Transportation and the National Transit Database show respectively that the 30 Evergreen State public transit agencies received just 13.6 percent of their operating revenues from fare payments versus an aggregate of 33 percent for all 824 transit agencies reporting nationwide. However, in Washington, transit system van pools had a remarkably strong financial performance, earning a full four-fifths of operating costs from riders.

New DOJ report: U.S. firearm homicide rate at 18-year low

by Matt Rosenberg May 16th, 2013

The rate of firearm-related homicides in the U.S. in 2011 was 3.6 per 100,000 persons, the same as in 2010 and otherwise lower than any year from 1993 forward, according to a new report from the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. The previous low in the 18-year study period was 3.8 in 2000. And, according to the BJS report, the rate in 2011 of non-fatal firearm victimizations, or reported acts of violence in which firearms were used, was 1.8 per 1,000 people 12 and older. That was up one-fifth of one percent from the last two years but down five-and-one-half points since 1993.

Data viz: Seattle public schools “pass rates” on state tests

by Mike Klaczynski May 15th, 2013

To graduate from a public high school in Washington, students in the classes of 2013 and 2014 must pass the state’s High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE) in reading and writing and an End-Of-Course (EOC) test in either algebra or geometry. Starting in 2015 those requirements will grow to include EOCs in algebra and geometry, and biology. State assessment tests called the Measurement of Student Progress (MSP) are also given in grades three through eight to help students, parents, teachers and administrators assess academic progress and adjust teaching methods and curriculum as deemed necessary. For non-special education students, passing the regular tests requires a grade of Level 3 (proficient) or Level 4 (advanced). Using Washington state data on achievement tests taken and passed in math and reading in different Seattle public schools across different grade levels, we developed the following interactive data visualization. Explore it to see how neighborhood public schools rate, compared to others in the district.

USER INSTRUCTIONS
1) Make your selections. Under “choose grade,” use the pull-down menu to select a type of school (elementary, K-8, middle, high). Using the “compare schools” tool select one school, or all schools within that category, or a custom combination of schools. Under “choose a test,” select either math or reading.

2) Explore the data. Here’s an example. By choosing all elementary schools and state reading test pass rates, you can: a) get a quick comparative overview via a mouse-over of any school’s dot on the map. You’ll see a pop-up box summary for each dot over which you hover, with a combined multi-year pass rate in the chosen subject, and relative ranking versus peer schools within the district; b) drill in to a school’s data by clicking on its map dot. Then you will have two more views of the data – above to the left (percent low-income and not, plus total number of tests taken); and below (yearly results by grade, subject and income group, versus district averages).

Additional technical notes:

  • Aggregate pass rates for schools were calculated by the author using number of tests passed versus number taken, from the state’s data because the state’s own pass rates for some schools in some subjects did not match the data.
  • Pass rate data for some schools in some years are not available because it was not included in the state’s datasets.
  • “Low-income” students are currently defined by the state as those eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.
  • The state high school math assessment test was not offered in the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years because it was being redesigned.
  • In 2008 and prior, the equivalent of the MSP, HSPE and EOC tests was called the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, or WASL.
  • RELATED: FAQs on state testing from Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction; additional information on who must take what when, and alternative tests.


    Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

    U.S.: Washington stays near top in carbon-free capitalism

    by Matt Rosenberg May 14th, 2013

    A new report from the U.S. Department of Energy shows Washington state has continued through 2010 to remain near the top among all 50 states in fueling its economy with minimal consumption of carbon dioxide emissions. According to the report from the department’s Energy Information Administration, Washington in 2010 ranked sixth lowest nationally for the tenth year in a row in metric tons of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions per million dollars of gross domestic product (GDP). The only states ranking lower in 2010 in proportion of energy-related carbon dioxide emitted to fuel their economies were, in order, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, and Oregon.

    The report emphasizes that what is being measured is based on where the energy is used, not where it is produced. But in the states whose economies are most tied to carbon emissions in the report, a lot of the consumption of that greenhouse gas actually occurs in order to produce fossil fuels.

    The states using the most energy-related carbon dioxide per million dollars GDP were Wyoming, North Dakota, Alaska, West Virginia and Louisiana. The report notes, “All these are fossil-energy-producing states. The activity of producing energy is itself energy intensive.”

    Another important metric in the report is per-capita, or per person, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions per state. There, Washington ranked eighth lowest among all 50 states in 2010, and between sixth and tenth lowest straight through from 2000 to 2009.

    Looking at the percentage decrease in per capita energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from 2000 through 2010, only nine states outpaced Washington, which decreased by nearly one-fifth, in percentage terms.

    The EIA also analyzed each state for 2010 energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by major sector of usage. In Washington, the commercial sector was responsible for 3.8 percent, electric power production for 13.1 percent of the usage, the residential sector for 5.1 percent, industrial 12.0 and transportation a relatively whopping 42.1 percent.

    RELATED:

    Study overview page with tables in .pdf and Excel.

    Public Data Ferret’s Energy+Environment archive.


    Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

    Few births in Washington outside of marriage; 5th lowest rate

    by Matt Rosenberg May 7th, 2013

    Washington state has one of the lowest rates of out-of-wedlock births in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau. A new report issued in May 2013 says that in the most recent year for which detailed American Community Survey data on the subject are available – 2011 – 35.7 percent of births nationwide were to unmarried women. In Washington, the rate was just 27.7 percent or fifth lowest overall, but it ranged widely within the state by metro region. Tri-Cities and Bremerton were far below the national average, while greater Seattle, Olympia and Bellingham were somewhat below it. Spokane was slightly below the national average, Wenatchee above it, and Longview and Yakima far in excess of it. State-by-state, the only ones with lower overall rates than Washington were Utah, New Hampshire, Montana and Nebraska. They ranged from 14.7 percent to 25.3 percent. It matters, say the authors of the report, because children born outside of marriage are more likely to be raised in poverty, and have poor developmental and behavioral outcomes.

    Data viz: whiteness, not latitude, tied to skin cancer rates

    by Danning Chen April 9th, 2013

    U.S. states with the highest skin cancer rates tend to have a high proportion of whites in their population while those with the lowest rates don’t. And the top two states for skin cancer, Vermont and Utah, feature especially high concentrations – compared to others – of young whites, age 18 to 24. These are a few of the correlations evident from the most recent annual skin cancer rates across the U.S., for 2009, and some of the demographic risk factors identified in scientific research. The official “white/non-Hispanic” population is 80 percent-plus in seven of the top ten skin cancer states, versus only one of the bottom ten. Three of the top ten were in the Northwest: Idaho fifth, Washington sixth and Oregon tied for seventh. Exposure to ultraviolet rays from both sun and tanning beds is considered a major risk factor for skin cancer, but sunny climes alone don’t appear to be a determinant. States typically bathed in ultraviolet rays such as Florida, Texas, and Arizona were in the bottom quintile for skin cancer. You can further explore the data in the visualization below.

    (Additional user tips: You can hover over the dot in each state for all three data points. To quickly rank states, hover over any of the three column headers in chart, then slide cursor to longest of the adjacent horizontal bars and click for a descending sort.)

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with 61,646 melanomas of the skin diagnosed in 2009, and 9,199 attributed deaths. According to research published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in 2012, skin cancer costs approximately $1.7 billion to treat annually in the U.S. and results in $3.8 billion in lost productivity. The National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Trends Progress Report – 2011-2012 Update notes younger adults and men are less likely to apply forms of sun protection, as are adults with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty level. Another risk group is young white women prone to use of indoor tanning beds.


    Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.