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U.S. Census: Product Comparisons

Census Source Comparisons


Roughly in order with the most aggregated data and easiest to use resources toward the top; more geographic specificity (but generally more difficult to use) toward the bottom.


Product Earliest date

Latest date

Smallest geography aggregated Mapping utility included? Download formats Notes
Proquest Statistical Abstract of the U.S. recent present Most indicators national
Some by state
No Data: Excel
Presentation format: PDF

Paper / Historic paper back to 1879 at Docs C 3.134: 
1878-2012 online (PDF) / 1878-1950 online (PDF w/ selectable text)

Historical Statistics of the United States 1790 2000 Most indicators national
Some by state
No Data: Excel, CSV
Presentation format: PDF
Also in paper
LINC (Log Into North Carolina) 1970 present County No No, just HTML tables (can be pasted into Excel) North Carolina only, but most data comes from U.S. Census
Social Explorer 1790 present Block Group for recent years; Block for 2010 Decennial Census Yes (not all indicators can be mapped) Data: CSV or tab delimited
Presentation format: PDF, Excel
Command files for stat packages (Stata, SAS, SPSS)

1 survey at a time.
Easy interface compared to other tools.
Some 1990 and 2000 data harmonized into 2010 geographies

(Formerly SimplyMap)
1980 present Block Group Yes

Data: Excel, CSV, PDF
Maps: GIF, PDF
Boundaries:  shapefiles

Can choose variables from multiple surveys; data from earlier years is all normalized to 2010 geographies; Includes marketing data, too
NHGIS 1790 present Block (since 1970) No (but can download GIS boundaries) Data: CSV or column delimited
Boundaries: shapefiles
Can choose variables from multiple surveys
Neighborhood Change Database 1970 2000 Tracts only No (but can download GIS boundaries)

Data: CSV, dBase
Boundaries: shapefiles; MapInfo Interchange Format (.mif)

Normalize census tract data from 1970-2000 to 2000 Census Tract boundaries; can choose data from multiple surveys

(LTDB) Longitudinal Tract Data Base
(scroll down to "Normalized Data" section)

1970 2010 Tract No (but can download an ArcGIS geodatabase) Data and boundaries: ArcGIS Geodatabase tables and layers Normalize census tract data from 1970-2010 to 2010 Census Tract boundaries 2010 present Block No Data: CSV
Presentation format: PDF, Excel, RTF
Can choose variables from multiple surveys
Census FTP site Pop:1980 present Block (some files) No Data: ASCII fixed width, CSV, DBF, and others Selected raw Census data, some back to 1960s
Paper Census Reports 1790 2010 Block (some years) Some have maps N/A
Most available online as scans (no tabular extraction).
Browse by year, then spine title, then ToC; also lots of "non-population" aggregations
NoteThe four sources that follow include Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) data which presuppose knowledge of statistical sampling and weighting.
ICPSR (Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research) 1790

some CPS data after 2010; Census of Population and Housing through 2000

Aggregations: Block (since 1970)
Microdata: areas 100,000+
No Data: typically ASCII fixed width, sometimes with setup files for stat programs Includes both aggregated data and Public Use Microdata Samples for selected years
ceprDATA 2005 (ACS) recent areas 100,000+ population No Data: Stata and CSV Stata files: Public Use Microdata Samples (PUMS) from ACS (Census) as well as some older CPS and SIPP data
Census Microdata Access recent decades present Aggregations: Block Group
Microdata: areas 100,000+
No Data: Delimited ASCII, JSON Includes Public Use Microdata, formerly available through the Data Ferrett interface. Data from ACS and CPS; more to be added. Allows custom cross-tabulations. How-to Materials for Using the Microdata Access
iPums USA some back to 1850 present areas 100,000+ population No Data: ASCII fixed-width, with setup files for SAS, SPSS, Stata Public Use Microdata Samples (PUMS)
NoteThe three sources that follow provide individual respondent data, useful for genealogy and for social or historical research requiring such detail.
Ancestry Library Edition 1790 1940 Individuals, not aggregated No Images: JPEG Includes some British and Canadian census and other genealogical resources
HeritageQuest Online 1790 1940 Individuals, not aggregated No Images: PDF or TIFF Can search multiple years
Non-Population Schedules on Microform (unique Duke holdings) 1850 1880 Individuals and businesses, not aggregated No N/A Originals held in Rubenstein Library