Every ten years, the US Census Bureau conducts an exhaustive census of the American population. This collection of information is surprisingly very brief and includes only basic information about people and housing in the United States. But the Census bureau actually collects far more detailed information every year and in more frequent surveys of fact about the population.
The result of all of this massive collection of data is that it needs to be accessible to the public as well as to the more advanced and large scale user. The American Fact Finder allows individuals and institutions to access the data in a variety of ways: by topic, by race, age, ethnicity, local community and so on. In some cases, those who have the computer space and firepower can download whole databases.
There is the American Community Survey, which gets information about age, race, income, commute time to work, home value, veteran status, and other data that is important for planning and other programs.
The population count is maintained in a current status through the Population Estimates Program. Estimates and future forecasts of age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin by national, state and county level along with estimates of the total population of functioning governmental units and estimates of the number of housing units for states and counties are produced through the Population Estimates Program.
The Economic Census and annual Economic Surveys provide information about businesses and on their economic situation and impact, with regard to location and geography. They present a “Portrait of the US Economy”.
In other cases, specified summaries can be called up, with search parameters that are easy to understand. There are table and map formats, geographical summaries, and other pre formed summaries that make the information easier to understand in relation to search parameters, such as state or region.
There are data sets for each of the Census programs that are summarizable in various forms, or that can be downloaded for statistical analysis in the larger computer facility. There are detailed tables, geographical tables, thematic and reference maps, and there are ways to customize tables.
There are tools and quick reference options, including the Census Bureau “Data Ferret”, to allow many forms of detailed and customized data extractions and summaries. The reference section has an array of atlases, data summaries and interesting sources of information.
There are also special interest, such as American Indian and International databases at the Fact Finder.
In summary, the Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder is an excellent and even necessary resource for the social scientist who needs data about the US population, whether in summary form for the typical user, or in massive downloads of entire databases for the extremely advanced and well equipped user.
US Census Bureau American Fact Finder