THURSDAY, JAN 31, 2013
Burrowing into Punxsutawney Phil’s Hometown Data
his own flower.) In addition to weather predictions, Phil also loves data, and while people think he is hibernating, he is actually conducting demographic analysis. As a Social Explorer subscriber, he used the site's mapping and reporting tools to look at the composition of his hometown.
Census data from 1890, Phil learned that the population was 44,405 around the time of his first predictions. While the rest of the nation was becoming more urban, Jefferson County remained more rural with only one eighth of the population living in places with 2,500 people or more (compared to nearly half statewide and more than a third in the US). Many Jefferson residents worked in the farming industry. Back then, there were 3.2 families for every farm in Jefferson County--higher than the rest of the state with 5.0 families per farm. Less than three decades after the Civil War, the county (located in a northern state) was 99.9 percent white, which was a little higher than statewide (97.9 percent) and also higher than nationwide 87.8 percent. (The Census also noted that there was one Chinese resident of Jefferson County in 1890.) Groundhog Day was originally called Candlemas, a day that Germans said the hibernating groundhog took a break from slumbering to check the weather. (According to the Oxford Companion to the Year.) If the creature sees its shadow, and is frightened, winter will hold on and hibernating will continue, but if not, the groundhog will stay awake and spring will come early. Back in 1890, there were 703 Germans living in Jefferson County (representing 1.6 percent of the county population and 11.3 percent of the foreign born), making Germany the fourth most common foreign born place of birth behind England, Scotland and Austria. Groundhog Day is also said to be Celtic in its roots, so perhaps the 623 Irish residents (representing 1.4 percent of the county population and 10.1 percent of the foreign born) helped to establish the tradition in Pennsylvania. Looking to today’s numbers, Phil was astonished to learn from the 2010 Census that Jefferson County has just 795 more people than it did 120 years ago. While Jefferson grew by 1.8 percent, the state grew by 141.6 percent and the nation grew by 393.0 percent. mapping and reporting tools.