Skip to main content

Census Data and Mapping Sources: Census Data Sources

Links to and descriptions of Duke resources for census data and mapping resources.

About Census Data Resources

Mapping census data is useful for visualizing changes over time, population distributions and densities, and for inferring relationships between variables.  Some resources have census data available for download in formats suitable to creating maps in an external geographic information system, such as ArcGIS.  Other resources have both data and online mapping utilities.  This guide intends to present the most common resources, which are easy to use and available to Duke University affiliates.

At Duke, there are several resources you can use to create maps from census data. Click on the links below, or the tabs at the top, to learn more about each resource.

*You will need to use the NHGIS and Social Explorer in conjunction with one another.  The NHGIS has no mapping utility, but you can download data and shapefiles to then bring into your own mapping utility, such as ArcGIS.  Social Explorer will allow you to create maps and reports online and save or print them, but you will have to go to the NHGIS in order to download the raw data or shapefiles.


If you are conducting genealogy research, consult the following resources


Resource Comparison

Resource Data Series/Dates Availability Aggregation Level
Download Formats Online Mapping
American FactFinder (US Census) Census (1990-2010)

American Community Survey (2000-2010)

Annual Population Estimates (2006-2010)

Economic Census (1997, 2002, 2007)
Nation, State, County, Tract, Block Group / Block (Census), Place, others

Nation, State, County, others

Nation, State, County, MSA, Place
Data files (CSV, XLS), presentation files (PDF) map images (GIF) Yes
GeoLytics Neighborhood Change Database Census (1970-2000) Tracts (2000 boundaries) Data files (CSV, DBF), shapefile, MapInfo Yes
NHGIS Census (1790-2010, decennial)

County Business Patterns (1970-2003)
Nation, State, County, Tract (1910-), MSA (1970-), others

Nation, State, County (1974-), ZIP (1988-)
Data files (CSV, other delimiters), shapefile, command files for statistical packages (Stata, SAS, SPSS) No
SimplyMap Census  (1980-2010, current year estimates, projections)
Nation, State, County, City, ZIP, Tract, Block Group Data files (XLS, DBF, CSV), map images (PDF, GIF), shapefile Yes
Social Explorer Census  (1790-2010)

American Community Survey (2005-2010)

RCMS (1980-2000) and American Church Lists (2009) religion series (non-Census)
Nation, state, county, tract (1940-), ZIP (2000), block groups (2000-), places and PUMA (2005-2010)

County (1980-2010)
PUMA and county (2010)
Data files (XLS, CSV), command files for statistical packages (Stata, SAS, SPSS), map images (PNG, Powerpoint) Yes