Number crunchers in Missouri and Ohio plan to develop new ways to analyze demographic data that could impact how $400 billion in federal and state are distributed annually.

Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau used to give out detailed questionnaires to learn about the American populace. Now, the 10-year count is stripped down and the detailed data comes from an ongoing annual survey called the American Community Survey.

As the Census continues the transition, the bureau will require new data analysis and ways to extract information from the surveys. To that end, the Census and National Science Foundation awarded a $2.85 million 5-year grant to statisticians at the University of Missouri and Ohio State University.

The grant is part of an $18.5 million effort from the National Science Foundation not only to crunch the huge amounts of data, but to train the next generation of statisticians.

As a part of this network, our research will focus on the ACS. The models we develop could potentially impact the way this data is used and help foster a deeper understanding of our communities, said Scott Holan, an associate professor of statistics who is managing the grant with Chris Wikle, professor of statistics both at the University of Missouri.

The resulting data will allow the Census bureau to develop poverty estimates and may affect a variety of programs including No Child Left Behind to highway planning.

A major component of this project is education, Wikle said. The U.S. Census Bureau is very interested in training the next generation of statisticians to work on these problems. At MU (University of Missouri), we will be training undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.