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Finding Census Data. The (Very) Basics. Decennial Census. Purpose is _____________________. 2000 Census first in which primary medium is electronic, although most 1990 data is available online, too. Logic of the Data Releases.

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Finding Census Data

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finding census data

Finding Census Data

The (Very) Basics

decennial census
Decennial Census
  • Purpose is _____________________.
  • 2000 Census first in which primary medium is electronic, although most 1990 data is available online, too.
logic of the data releases
Logic of the Data Releases
  • Public Law (P.L.) data – data necessary for voting district configuration
    • over 18; total population; race
  • Summary File 1 – Short form data (100%)
  • Summary File 3 – Long form data (sample)
content of the data releases
P.L. Data

Population, total and over 18 (voting)

Race and ethnicity


Age & sex

Race & ethnicity

Household relationships

Housing units & tenure data; vacancy characteristics

Group quarters data


Content of the Data Releases
content of the data releases1
SF3 – Population

Age (cross-tab)

Race & ethnicity (cross-tab)

Marital Status

Employment & Income

Language spoken at home, ancestry & migration

Military service

Farm residence


Grandparents as caregivers

School enrollment & educational attainment

SF3 – Housing

Heating fuel & fuel cost

Number of rooms & bedrooms

Occupation, industry, class of worker; work status in 1999

Year structure built & units in structure

Telephone service

Plumbing & kitchen facilities

Utilities, mortgage, taxes, insurance

Value of home/monthly rent paid

Vehicles available

Year moved into residence

Content of the Data Releases
census geography an abbreviated hierarchy
Census GeographyAn Abbreviated Hierarchy





3- and 5-digit summary levels

Cong. District



(Muncipalities & CDPs)

Cnty Subdivision


Census Tract

Block Group


AIANHH - American Indian/Alaskan Native/Hawaiian Homelander

CDP - Census Designated Place

ZCTA - Zip Code Tabulation Area—never to be confused with a Zip Code


Get a quick summary

  • Direct Line to Tract Maps:
  • Navigating to Tract Maps
  • Geography: Maps

>>Map Products:

>>REFERENCE MAPS: Census Geography: Census Tract Outline Maps

>>will let you choose either 2000 or 1990

exercise home town park
Exercise – Home Town Park
  • Think of a park you know. From the directory, choose the state it’s in, then the county. (If you don’t know the county, use Pullen Park in Wake County, North Carolina.)
  • The first map in each directory ends in _000.pdf. This is the index map which shows the county covered by a numbered grid. Use it to find the grid cell that covers the area in which your park is located and note the number of the cell.
  • Now go back to the list of maps. The grid cell numbers correspond to the numbered maps in the directory—choose the map with that cell number to get a detailed view of the area. Locate the park and copy down the tract numbers surrounding it. (For this exercise use just the tracts immediately adjacent. In real life, you’d have to estimate the radius.)
get to the data
Get to the Data
  • Factfinder
  • On left, Data Sets—Decennial Census
  • On this page, select the summary file you want by its radio button
  • On the right, click the Detailed Tables link

Get detailed data


Get detailed data

Choose your summary file, 1 or 3, by the variables you need

Description of



get to the data geographies
Get to the Data – Geographies

Select Geographic Type >> Census Tract

Select state—county—tract numbers

“Add” to selections box

Click Next button

factfinder geographies
FactFinder- Geographies


Geographic Type

to Tract using the

dropdown menu


Drill down to the

state & county you need

Select the tract(s) you

need from the list

Add them to

your selections

Click Next

get to the data variables
Get to the Data – Variables

Select from All Tables or use Keyword tab to search for terms

Highlight table (use What’s This to scout)

“Add” to selections box

Click Show Result button

factfinder variables
FactFinder - Variables

To see

table shell

make gis ready
Make GIS-ready
  • Find Options link in header

>>Show Geographic Identifiers

  • After you download the data (instructions next slide)
make gis ready1
Make GIS-Ready

Selecting this option will add the Identifiers (all of them) as another table in your results.

download the data
Download the Data

Find Print/Download link in header


Select format (and transposition if wish)

Click OK—Open or Save file

after the download
After the Download
  • You can delete the extraneous Geographic Identifier variables. What you’ll need are just the FIPS code variables that provide a unique identifier for each tract—
    • under GEOGRAPHIC AREA CODES: County, and Census Tract
    • You’ll need to “concatenate” these fields (Excel function) before joining table to GIS map
make gis ready2
Make GIS-Ready

This is a long list of codes most of which you won’t need. What you will need are:

for more information contact
For More Information, Contact

Michele Hayslett

Data Services Librarian

NC State University Libraries

Raleigh, NC

(919) 513-4433

important distinctions
Important Distinctions
  • Race versus Ethnicity
  • Household versus Family
  • Metropolitan versus Urban
primary resources for gis census data
Primary Resources for GIS Census Data
  • Search for “Census”
    • Lots of existing layers with Census attributes
    • Most common geographic levels
    • If can’t find variables you need there…
primary resources for gis census data1
GeoLytics discs

NR Library or D. H. Hill

Georeferenced and easily downloaded in shape file format

1970 through 2000 data available

Quirky DOS program; may encounter errors

No ACS data

American FactFinder

Not georeferenced – must be joined to a GIS layer (but .shp files coming soon!)

1990, 2000 decennial data and ACS data

2000 data has Geo within Geo option

20-minute limit

Primary Resources for GIS Census Data
online resources
Online Resources
  • Starting guide to finding Census resources

  • User guide for GeoLytics resources

future of the census american community survey acs
Future of the Census: American Community Survey (ACS)
  • Will replace the long form and provide data every year

—but as a multi-year average for geographies with less than 65,000 people

  • Began w/ testing in 2003 and in full operation by 2010
american community survey
American Community Survey
  • Rolling survey of certain number each month with telephone and personal followups
    • 2005 – data available for areas of 65,000+
    • 2007 – data available for areas of 20,000 – 65,000
    • 2010 – data available for areas smaller than 20,000
  • More information at