The WSJ recently had an article entitled The Realignment of America, by Michael Barone, which attempts to give a finer-grained picture of the demographic shifts in America than the simple ‘the Snow Belt to the Sun Belt’. Barone defines four categories of cities and their associated patterns of change, and then provides a bit of political commentary. These categories are Coastal Megalopolises, Interior Boomtowns, Rust Belt, and Static Cities. Provides a quick summary of some interesting trends in the US.
The CDC is planning to scale back its main disease surveillance system, BioSense, and will now only focus on tracking diseases that occur in the largest cities in the United States. While this might be due to budget cuts, this strikes me as a foolhardy decision. To focus only on the larger cities is to miss the sources of possible outbreaks. While in decades past this might have still provided enough time to stem the outbreak, nowadays, when travel is routine and widespread, epidemics can spread to the entire United States extremely rapidly (here are some flu simulations, for example). By limiting detection to only large cities, this might remove the element of early-warning and possibly make it too late for proper counter-measures (by the time the outbreak is detected, it has already gone national or international). If the CDC has done simulations and studies that show that the lead-time gained is negligible, that would be good to know and would assuage my concerns, but I have not heard anything about that. If you are aware of anything like this, please let me know.
A recent article in the WSJ, entitled Census 2010 Plays Six Not-So-Easy Questions (behind paywall), discusses the difficulty of choosing and wording the questions that will go into the 2010 Census. This kind of information is important for many things, from allocating members of Congress to policy planning to learning about the growth and decline of cities. Unfortunately, if the questions are ambiguous or confusing, large groups of people end up not responding, or giving the wrong answer. So they’re trying to be really careful about it:
“You only get one chance with the census,” says Preston Waite, the associate director of the decennial census. “If the wording isn’t right, it’s 10 more years before you can ask that question again. You only get one chance at bat.”
An interesting read.