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Last Updated: Sep 5, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

U.S. Census data Print Page

Special Govt. Shutdown Edition!

Statistics refresher

  • Mean:  Often call the "average." Add everything up, and divide by the total number. 
  • Median: Line up all statistics from smallest to largest, then choose the middle one. Normally, a better measure than the mean.
  • Sample: A small randomly-selected group to estimate a statistic for the whole population.
  • Household: Roughly speaking, all people sharing living somewhere with a common entrance. Often not the same as a family group. Excludes dorms, jails, barracks.

Who gathers demographic statistics?

Many key statistics come the the U.S. Census. 

  • Decennial census 
    • Every ten years, each household answers a short survey.
    • For each resident, it asks: name, sex, age, relationship, Hispanic origin, race, and whether the housing unit occupied was rented or owned.
    • This is not a sample. It is a counting of the entire U.S. population.
  • American Community Survey (ACS)
    • Each year a sample of households (one in forty) answer 200+ questions on social, economic, and housing characteristics for every member of the household.
    • These samples are used to estimate the populations they are drawn from.
    • Estimates are very reliable for large numbers of people (states), but less reliable for small numbers (block groups).

What are Census geographies?

  • Data is collected at the household level and aggregated to larger areas:
    • Household--your personal data are confidential for 70 years.
    • Blocks
    • Block groups
      • approximately 10 city blocks (in population)
      • the smallest geography for which data are reported
    • Census tracts
    • Counties
    • States
    • Nation
  • Other Census geographies
    • Congressional districts
    • Zip codes
    • ...and more.
  • Companies use Census Data for digital mapping

 How are Census data verified?

  • All demographic data are self-reported.
  • Race and ethnicity are self-described.
    • Are you of Hispanic origin? If so, from where?
    • Choose one race. No option for multi-racial.

U.S. Census Bureau--Quick Facts

Summaries of demographic and business statistics

  • Notice the DATES. Most are estimates based the 2010 Census and ACS.
  • For more information, click the (i) icon to the left of a statistic.

American Factfinder

A step-by-step guide to finding relevant statistics. Covers a huge array of Census data.

Warning:  If you copy a table's URL in address bar, it won't work later! Instead, click the "Bookmark" icon just above the table. Then click "Create Bookmark."

  • American Factfinder: guided search
    Answer a series of questions:
    * What TOPIC do you want?
    * Are you focusing on RACE/ETHNICITY?
    It gives a list of relevant statistical tables. Try one. Your statistics maybe buried within the table.

Race & Ethnicity in the Census

Defining race, ethnicity, and ancestry is complex.  The U.S. Census revises its definitions every ten years.

Defininitions and relevant statistics:


Race data available

Overview of race and Hispanic origin


2010 Census: How it works

  • The 2010 Census form
    These are questions that EVERY U.S. resident was supposed to fill out in 2010. All questions are about who lives at this address. Data on age, sex, race, and hispanic origin. Do you own or rent?
  • American Community Survey (ACS)--much longer form
    This is a much longer survey, but it is only completed by a representative sample--approx. 2% of U.S. households. This gives accurate estimates for ALL U.S. residents on things like household income and educational attainment.
  • 2010 U.S. Census (site)

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