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Data.census.gov: A new US Census Bureau resource for data

August 18, 2019 Leave a comment

After reviewing the US Census Bureau’s new data site (https://data.census.gov) I find it more intuitive than the standard way of accessing Census data.  It was created, according to the site, “based on overwhelming feedback to streamline the way you (the data user) gets data.”   Aligned with other data sites that we have reviewed in this blog, the US Census Bureau is drifting away from delivering data through a series of individual tools (such as American FactFinder, OnTheMap, and My Congressional District) to a model where those tools’ capabilities are integrated and served on a single platform, eventually accessible by a single search bar on Census.gov.  The US Census Bureau’s vision for data dissemination is to “improve the customer experience so users spend less time searching for data products and more time using them.”  That phrase should bring joy to every GIS analyst’s heart.

For those familiar with Census data table numbers, you can search for table “B01001” to view the “Sex by Age” tables.  Or, start typing a Table ID and then select the options that appear below the search bar.  You can also transpose columns and rows in data tables.  You can download data tables in .CSV format and download multiple years in one ZIP file.   This site is a work in progress.  Don’t expect miracles and everything in the immense Census archive to suddenly become easy to access.  All of my searches resulted in hundreds or even thousands of hits, for example, a search for “census tract boundaries orange county california” netted over 1,000 entries, most of which had nothing to do with my search.  Thus, (1) the site still needs work but also (2) I need to spend more time with it.  You may need to bail out to the tried-and-true FTP site for some data.  To their credit, creating an easy-to-use resources for a data archive for the US Census Bureau has got to be a challenge.  After working over 4 years as a Census Bureau geographer, helping create the TIGER system, I have great respect for the agency.

While the site represents quite a bit of information to deal with, the release notes (https://data.census.gov/assets/releasenotes/faqs-release-notes.pdf) are helpful.  The section on known limitations, part of the release notes, are particularly useful.

census_data-site

Conducting a search with the US Census Bureau’s new data resource.

Joseph Kerski