Issues to Consider
When trying to obtain US census data, consider the following points:
- Level of aggregation: Do you need information on individuals, or aggregated data?
- Geographic specificity: If aggregated, data for a single place, or comparison between different geographies?
- Geographic extent: If comparison, what units within what area? (e.g., all counties within a state, all census tracts within a county)
- Date(s) of interest: What time period are you studying?
- Date span: A single point in time, or track changes over time (time series)?
- Output needs: Do you need to see data on screen, download or print a pretty table, or download data to analyze further?
- Periodicity of surveys: Understand that surveys may be decennial, annual, or represent an average over 3 or 5 years (e.g., American Community Survey).
- Changes in questions: Understand that different questions are asked as parts of different surveys, and questions asked change over time.
The book Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses From 1790 to 2000 provides a nice overview of the questions asked during the first 22 censuses.
PDF version / Paper version: Perkins/Bostock Library Reference Desk C 3.2: M46/2
Once you've thought through this, see the following tabs of this guide to find appropriate sources for your data.
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