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Census Data Resources: Make Maps, Reports, and Data Extracts

Subject Guide for Census Data Resources

Your Librarian

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John Prechtel
Main Library Research & Instruction Department

706 542 3472

Librarian Favorites

  • Social Explorer
    Make reports and download demographic data tables from 1940 to 2010. Create maps in an easy-to-use interface (see their how-to videos). Maps can be exported as PowerPoint presentations or as images. GIS users: see the instructions below for help using this data in ArcMap.
  • The National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS)
    Over 12,000 aggregate census tables and 430 GIS shapefiles spanning the entire United States from 1790 to 2010, available for free download.
  • iPUMS
    Huge collection of U.S. and international public use microdata samples (PUMS) files from recent and historical censuses and other surveys.
  • Census Map Services from ArcGIS
    Open these map services directly in ArcGIS desktop software or in ArcGIS Explorer Online.
  • ArcGIS Explorer Online
    Web-based mapping application useful for viewing Census map services from ArcGIS Online.

Things to keep in mind...

  • Social Explorer is generally the easiest resource to use but other resources and tools may be more appropriate in certain circumstances.
  • What year do you need? has recent years of its surveys; Social Explorer has all years but doesn't include as many surveys..
  • What geography do you need? 
  • Which variable(s) do you need? covers more surveys so it includes more and different variables; Social Explorer may exclude certain variables due to technical reasons involving data suppression.
  • Are the pre-fabricated tables offered by and Social Explorer acceptable or do you prefer to pull single variables? National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS) allows you to pull individual variables. 
  • Do you need to download GIS-ready files (shapefiles)? NHGIS provides these.
  • Do you need to make a map without using GIS? Social Explorer (easier to use) and both have this capability.
  • Do you need microdata? iPUMS provides access to the Census public use microdata sample (PUMS) files (small anonymized samples of individual responses to a given census survey geocoded for large geographic areas called public use microdata areas [PUMAs], super-PUMAs and higher levels of geography, e.g., states). Microdata Access Tool (MDAT) from the Census Bureau lets you create your own crosstabulations of data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey datasets and some American Community Survey (ACS) datasets.  It is also possible for qualified researchers to apply to use un-anonymized microdata through the Atlanta Census Research Data Center (Note: this is a long-term process—six months or more).
  • What survey do you need? covers most of the currently active Census Bureau surveys for recent years; Social Explorer has all of the ACS datasets as well as the decennial censuses, 1790 to present;  The Census Bureau website provides information and links to still more survey datasets, such as the Current Population Surveys, SIPP, and SAIPE; also datasets collected for other Federal agencies like the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data; the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.  iPUMS and NHGIS cover U.S. Decennial Censuses and American Community Surveys as well as many comparable datasets from other countries and surveys on other topics like health care..