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U.S. Census: Introduction

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 pre-formatted table, or download data to analyze further?
  • Periodicity of surveys: Understand that surveys may be decennial, annual, or represent a pool of observations 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 the same basic question may vary somewhat over time.

Once you've thought through these issues, see the following tabs of this guide to find appropriate sources for your data.

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Mark Thomas
233C Perkins Library

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Librarian for Military History, History of Science and Technology, Britain, Ireland and Commonwealth

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