LAWRENCE — For a half-century, one report has provided invaluable social and economic data that has aided Kansans in promoting and governing their communities.
The Institute for Policy & Social Research at the University of Kansas in September published the 50th edition of the Kansas Statistical Abstract, which contains a wide variety of statistical data broken down by state, county and city.
"It is a real service to the state that KU has been providing for 50 years and even before then," said Genna Hurd, IPSR associate researcher and KSA editor. "We hear all the time from people across the state about how they use the data in their own communities."
The 50th edition includes statistics through July 2016 on topics ranging from population, vital statistics and health, housing, education, business, exports, employment, finance, state and local governments, crime, recreation, and energy and natural resources.
Data are especially useful to policymakers at the state and local levels as they weigh various issues, apply for grant funding or conduct other business, said Xanthippe Wedel, an IPSR senior research data engineer who leads collection of the data from various state and national sources.
"In a more globalized economy, many communities are trying to look at Kansas and how it compares with our peers," Wedel said. "Being able to have all these different sets of data in one place has also become essential."
KU published the first edition, the 1965 edition, in 1966 through the Center for Regional Studies, IPSR's predecessor.
“For 50 years, first in print and now online, the KSA has provided the people of Kansas accessible social, economic and demographic data,” said Steven Maynard-Moody, director of IPSR and professor in the KU School of Public Affairs & Administration. “This kind of data was relevant in 1966, is essential in 2016 and will prove invaluable in 2066.”
A foreword to the edition by David Huff, the center's director, notes the volume was meant to present in a concise and convenient format important social and economic data pertaining to the state. The edition was 47 pages. More recent editions approach 600 pages.
Many things technologically have changed over 50 years, but the core mission of the abstract remains the same, IPSR staff said. The abstract is now published as a PDF file on the IPSR website for free, and staff have scanned pages to make available all editions, even the ones printed originally as books.
Laura Kriegstrom Stull, who retired from IPSR in 2015 after 34 years, was involved with more than half of the KSA editions, including initially as a KU student. As a cartographer, Kriegstrom Stull had to initially use pen and ink and photograph layers to print maps for publication, Wedel said. Modern GIS technology simplified that process, she said.
"We are a filter of big data," Wedel said. "We filter many things down and try to give what is appropriate to the people of Kansas in a meaningful way, whether that is maps, graphs, charts or tables."
Staff members said it was fitting the 50th edition contains data that coincided with the year in which KU celebrated its 150th anniversary.
"We've managed to figure out a way to keep providing this service because we know that this is important to communities who have looked to us long-term for this type of information," Hurd said. "We like to think people, such as community leaders, are using this to help them make good decisions in their own processes."