Census Resources: United States
The U.S. Census Bureau is one of the most prolific statistical publishers in the United States. It does more than merely count people every ten years. Census Bureau publications cover a wide array of topics from income, poverty, and housing characteristics to computer use, Other federal agencies regularly contract with the Census Bureau to conduct surveys on their behalf. Examples include the Bureau of LaborStatistics and the National Center for Health Statistics.
Lockwood Library has copies of selected historical census publications in paper format. Search the Libraries' Catalog as call numbers vary. Lockwood Library also has selected publications dealing with New York State counts from 1900 through the present. Search the Libraries' Catalog or browse the HA 201 section to locate information.
For the latest information on the 2020 Census, including a sample questionnaire, please visit 2020 Census Research, Operational Plans, and Oversight and 2020census.gov.
Describes what the Census Bureau does, who works there, policies and notices, plans and budgets, and contact information.
Reproduces Census Bureau publications in PDF format. Organization is by date order. Materials include agriculture; business and economic census; construction and housing; foreign trade; reference materials; government; population; Statistical Abstracts ; transportation; and technical documentation and methodological papers.
The Statistical Abstract is the single most significant reference source that summarizes U.S. statistics. All tables are well documented enabling users to easily refer to the original sources for further information.
Current Demographic and Housing Sources
Sources of Data
Explore Census Data provides access to data about the United States, Puerto Rico and the Island Areas. The data in Explore Census Data come from several censuses and surveys. For more information see Census Help and What Data are available?
American Housing Survey - "The American Housing Survey (AHS) is a longitudinal housing unit survey conducted biennially in odd-numbered years. It provides current information on a wide range of housing subjects, including size and composition of the nation's housing inventory, vacancies, physical condition of housing units, characteristics of occupants, indicators of housing and neighborhood quality, mortgages and other housing costs, persons eligible for and beneficiaries of assisted housing, home values, and characteristics of recent mover "
Complete Economic and Demographic Data Source (CEDDS) (Woods and Pool Economics, Inc.)
Lockwood Reference HC101 .C616 2004
Provides historical overviews and 25 year projections for population; age; race; hispanic origin; employment and earnings by industry; household and per capita income; and retail sales. Data cover the nation, states, metropolitan areas, and counties. See also Cornell Program on Applied Demographics - PAD for population projections.
Congressional Quarterly's Encyclopedia of the U.S. Census(CQ Press)
Lockwood HA37 .U55 C66 2000
The most comprehensive book of its type. Both novices and experts will benefit from the well written articles.
Demography: Analysis and Synthesis (Elsevier)
Lockwood Reference HB871 .C37513 2006
A 4 volume compilation of essays covering all aspects of demography. Novices and the statistically unsophisticated may have difficulty getting through this.
Encyclopedia of Population (Macmillan Reference USA)
Lockwood Reference HB871 .E538 2003
A comprehensive source that attempts to satisfy needs of a wide audience from undergraduates through experts.
International Encyclopedia of Population (Columbia University. College of Physicians and Surgeons. Center for Population and Family Health)
Abbott Library HB849.2 .I61 1982
Includes signed articles that attempt to interrelate demographic concepts and related concepts in the social sciences. The Topical Outline in volume 2 provides a good overview of demography. Most articles are appropriate for novices.
Methods and Materials of Demography(Elsevier/Academic Press)
Lockwood Reference HB849.4 .M484 2004
Intended as a framework for a year long introductory course in demography for those with limited math skills. Coverage includes a wide range of topics, including population growth; migration; race and ethnicity; and fertility and mortality.
Sourcebook of ZIP Code Demographics (Title varies) (C.A.C.I.)
Lockwood Reference HA 203 .S66
Covers age distribution; race; population growth; households; and "purchasing potential indexes".
Dictionary of Demography(Blackwell Reference)
Lockwood Reference HB849.2 .P7413 1985
Dictionary of Demography. Multilingual Glossary (Greenwood Press)
Lockwood Book Collection HB849.2 .P468 1985
Dictionary of Demography: Terms, Concepts, and Institutions (Greenwood Press)
Lockwood Reference HB849.2 .P47 1986
Current Economic Census Sources
Sources of Data
Explore Census Data provides access to data about the United States, Puerto Rico and the Island Areas. The data in Explore Census Data come from several censuses and surveys. For more information see Census Help and What Data are available?.
Census Business Builder - A suite of services that provide selected demographic and economic data from the Census Bureau tailored to specific types of users in a simple to access and use format.
Microdata Access (previously DataFerret) - A data analysis and extraction tool that allows users to customize data based on information needs. DataFerrett was decommissioned and taken offline on June 30, 2020. Data previously available on DataFerrett are now being released on the U.S. Census Bureau's new dissemination platform, Microdata Access.
Uses of the Economic Census
The Economic Census is an important source of facts about the structure and functioning of the nation's economy. The federal government uses the data to compile ongoing economic indicators, such as the gross national product, and to develop indexes that measure industrial production and price levels. State and local governments use the data to assess business activities in their jurisdictions. Business people use the data to:
- Forecast general economic conditions and sales.
- Analyze sales performance.
- Establish sales territories.
- Allocate funds for advertising.
- Locate new plants, warehouses, and stores.
- Measure potential markets.
Additionally, trade and professional associations use the Economic Census to study and forecast trends that may affect their industries. This information is also valuable to university students, faculty, and others who must do any of the above as part of their research.
The Census Bureau conducts the Economic Census twice per decade for years ending with digits "2" and "7." It provides a snapshot of the American economy at a given time. Establishments, rather than companies, are the basis of the census. Establishments are places where business is conducted. A company that has three different facilities represents three establishments.
Selected Guides to the Economic Census
The Economic Census is the U.S. Government's official five-year measure of American business and the economy. It is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, and response is required by law.
Economic Censuses and Related Publications (Michigan State University Libraries)
Describes the various publications that comprise the Economic Census and their history; the collection and reporting of data; and related documents.
Industry Research Using the Economic Census: How to Find It, How to Use It (Jennifer C. Boettcher and Leonard M. Gaines)
Lockwood Reference HC101 .B594 2004
The most comprehensive text on the topic.
Publications (U.S. Census Bureau)
Lists broad categories for locating Census Bureau publications. Those pertinent to the Economic Census are Business-Trade and Services; Construction and Housing; Economic Census; and Manufacturing and Mineral Industries.
Current Geography and Maps
Using census data successfully requires close attention to geographic definitions. Researchers must do more than merely locate a number. They must also associate the number to the correct geography. Otherwise the data becomes invalid. Selected geographies that are used most often are defined below.
- United States.
- Regions : Four regions cover the Northeast, Midwest, South, and West.
- Divisions : The four regions are subdivided into the following nine divisions: New England; Middle Atlantic; East North Central; West North Central; South Atlantic; East South Central; West South Central; Mountain; and Pacific.
- Core based statistical area (CBSA): Includes micropolitan and metropolitan statistical areas.
- Micropolitan statistical area: Urban areas of between 10,000 and 49,999 population that have high degrees of social and economic integration.
- Metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs): MSAs usually include central cities of 50,000 or more population, plus the surrounding suburbs that are socially and economically integrated with the central city. For example, the Buffalo Metropolitan Statistical Area includes the City of Buffalo (central city), plus all remaining parts of Erie and Niagara Counties. It is very important to differentiate Buffalo City from Buffalo MSA. Statistics for each are very different.
MSAs changed over time with population shifts. See Current Lists of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas and Definitions (for changes since 2003, and Historical Metropolitan Area Definitions for changes between 1950-1999.
- Combined statistical area (CSA): Two or more adjacent core based statistical areas.
- County subdivisions (Minor Civil Divisions--MCDs): Primary divisions of counties, such as cities and towns. New York State considers villages places, not county subdivisions.
- Places (or parts): Places in New York State are cities and villages. They are sometimes divided among multiple county subdivisions. For example, the Village of Williamsville is in both Amherst and Cheektowaga Towns.
- Census tracts: Subdivisions of counties that have approximately 4,000 people. Cite tracts in relation to particular counties because all counties will have tract 1,…
- Block groups: Subdivisions of census tracts that include groups of adjacent blocks.
- Census blocks: Bounded on all sides by boundaries.
Census Data Mapper - a web mapping application intended to provide users with a simple interface to view, save and print county-based demographic maps of the United States. The data are from the 2010 Census
Social Explorer (Oxford University Press)
Provides maps and statistical reports for places, census tracts, block groups, counties, and congressional districts for 1940-2010. Specific geographies vary for each census. Coverage also includes maps and data for religious affiliations by counties for 1980-2000. Social Explorer is intended for those who need an occasional map, but have no interest in learning a GIS system. More serious map users ought to consider National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS) as an alternative.
PolicyMap - UB does not subscribe to the full version of PolicyMap but a free basic edition is available to the public with signup.
U.S. Census Bureau Survey Instruments
American Community Survey (ACS) Home Page
Links describe how to access and use the data, and point to news releases and technical documentation appropriate for data novices, as well as sophisticated users.
American Housing Survey "The American Housing Survey (AHS) is a longitudinal housing unit survey conducted biennially in odd-numbered years. It provides current information on a wide range of housing subjects, including size and composition of the nation's housing inventory, vacancies, physical condition of housing units, characteristics of occupants, indicators of housing and neighborhood quality, mortgages and other housing costs, persons eligible for and beneficiaries of assisted housing, home values, and characteristics of recent mover "
Current Population Survey (CPS) - The Bureau of the Census conducts the monthly Current Population Survey for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is the main source of data about labor force characteristics. Links connect to publications; related surveys; methodological documentation; and data current through February 2002. Access more recent and historical labor force statistics through the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) at http://stats.bls.gov/cps/home.htm . CPS measures other demographic characteristics as well. These include education; foreign born population; geographic mobility; hispanic origin; income and earnings; race; poverty; and regional, state, and area trends. Most statistics deal cover the nation and multi-state regions.
Population and Housing Unit Estimates - Provides annual estimates of the resident population and demographic change (births, deaths, and migration) for the nation, states, counties, and sub-county areas. Additional data for the nation, states, and counties cover age, sex, race, and hispanic origin. See the Federal State Cooperative Program for Population Estimates for additional information.
Survey of Income and Program Participation - SIPP is a longudinal survey that measures income and labor force data; participation and eligibility in social welfare programs, such as food stamps; and demographic characteristics for evaluating the effectiveness of federal, state, and local programs. Longitudinal studies follow the same group of people over a given period, thus, enabling researchers to address:
- Factors affecting changes in household and family structure, and living arrangements.
- Relationships among changes in households/families and income distribution, eligibility for programs, and economic status.
- Causes of turnover in government programs.
Herman, Edward. "The American Community Survey: An Introduction to the Basics," Government Information Quarterly 25 (2008), 504-519. Emphasis is upon the importance of ACS, how ACS differs from the decennial census, how ACS relates to other Census Bureau surveys, and the future of ACS.
Taeuber, Cynthia. American Community Survey Data for Community Planning. Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford Publishing, 2006. Lockwood Reference HT 167 .T34 2006
Five sections deal with ACS basics, locating data, understanding the data, interpreting the data in written reports, and common errors. Taeuber also includes a glossary. This is one of the best books about the American Community Survey intended for novice audiences. It is recommend highly for both government document and general reference collections.
Please note that Explore Census Data (census.data.gov) has replaced American FactFinder as the go-to resource for census facts, reports and tables. See the note from the FactFinder website below for additional access information:
"Starting in July, data.census.gov will be the primary way to access Census Bureau data, including upcoming releases from the 2018 American Community Survey, 2017 Economic Census, 2020 Census and more. After July 1, 2019, all new data (previously released on American FactFinder) will be released on this new data platform.
American FactFinder (AFF) will remain as an "archive" system for accessing historical data until spring 2020."
Explore Census Data - the primary distribution tool for the 2000 Census of Population and Housing, but it has since become the key dissemination tool for all Bureau censuses, surveys, and estimates.
Census Data Mapper - a web mapping application intended to provide users with a simple interface to view, save and print county-based demographic maps of the United States. The data are from the 2010 Census.