It’s scary what the government can do with survey data

October 31, 2013

Forty-one million potential trick-or-treaters between the ages of 5 and 14 in the United States. One-hundred-fifteen million occupied homes that could serve as potential stops for those kids on Thursday.

When it comes to Halloween, no one dishes out data treats like the U.S. Census Bureau. The agency has compiled a list of statistics and other fun facts relating to the October holiday in keeping with its regular showcasing of detailed survey numbers around the time of national observances.

Saint Lucifer’s Haunted Asylum in Flint, Mich., where paintballers can shoot zombies like this one. (AP Photo/ Saint Lucifer’s Haunted Asylum)
Saint Lucifer’s Haunted Asylum in Flint, Mich., where paintballers can shoot zombies like this one. (AP Photo/ Saint Lucifer’s Haunted Asylum)

Four-hundred-forty manufacturing establishments produced non-chocolate confectionary products in 2011, another 1,148 made chocolate and cocoa items, and nearly 48,000 acres of agricultural land were used for harvesting pumpkins in 2012 — Illinois led the nation by producing an estimated 556 million pounds of orange gourd.

Costume and formal wear establishments numbered 1,197 in 2011, and Halloween moviegoers may have caught a horror flick at any one of 4,575 motion picture theaters that year. During the same timeframe, more than 93 percent of households considered their neighborhoods safe, meaning they probably made for good trick-or-treat areas.

Feel like visiting a town with a spooky sounding name this Halloween? Try Sleepy Hollow, Ill., Tombstone, Ariz., Casper, Wyo., or Kill Devil Hills, N.C., all of which the Census Bureau details in its American FactFinder database.

Other numbers-oriented federal agencies have found similar ways to package data based on holiday themes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, for instance, produces annual Thanksgiving reports focusing on the winter holidays — the price of turkey, holiday shopping numbers and volunteer work.

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook, or Google+. Visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics for more federal news. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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