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U.S. Census Data

Finding data and statistics from the United States Decennial Census and American Community Survey

Overview of Census Data Types

  • Census and ACS data are released in pretabulated tables that contain aggregated data. These data are aggregated by all sorts of characteristics and geographies, but it's important to keep in mind that you are searching for pre-made tables (rather than building tables yourself). However, these tables are sufficient for most Census Data users. Visit the Accessing Census Data tab for sources.
  • The Census Bureau also releases Public Use Microdata Samples (or PUMS) from the Census and ACS. PUMS files are a set of untabulated records that reflect individual people or housing units that allow data users to create custom tables that are not available through the pre-made tables. Visit the Accessing Census Data tab for sources.
  • Full Census records (including information about individuals) are released 72 years after they are collected. For example, the full records from Census 1940 were released in April 2012. These files tend to be of most interest to geneaologists, but have research uses as well. Visit the Accessing Census Data tab for sources.
  • Researchers needing access to restricted microdata from more recent years can create an application to use one of the Census Bureau's nine secure Research Data Centers. In NYC, our RDC is located at Baruch College. Visit the Accessing Census Data tab for additional information.
  • Finally, you can find many print Census publications in NYU Libraries' United States Documents Collection. Many of these publications are historical,  special tabulations, and Census Bureau programs other than the Decennial Census & ACS. Visit the Depository Information tab for more information.

What topic(s) am I looking for? 

The ACS and the Census provide population counts, but not all topics appear in both. To compare, check out the Census Bureau's A-Z Subject Index or look at the questions that were asked: Census and ACS.

How recent does it need to be?

ACS is the most recent data, with ACS 1-year estimates being the most recent of the ACS releases.

How accurate does it need to be?

Census data is the most accurate; ACS 5-year estimates are the most accurate of the ACS releases.

Which geographies should I study?

ACS 1-year and 3-year estimates only exist for larger geographies; for smaller geographies you'll need to use ACS 5-year estimates or Census data. For NYC geographies, you'll need to use a special source like InfoShare Online and your choice of datasets will be more limited.

Data set

Time Period Sample Coverage
Census 2010 April 1, 2010 All Americans living in households All US Census geographies
ACS 1-year estimates* 12 months of collected data Representative sample; approximately 3 million households sampled per year US Census geographies with populations larger than 65,000
ACS 3-year estimates* 36 months of collected data Representative sample; approximately 3 million households sampled per year US Census geographies with populations larger than 20,000
ACS 5-year estimates* 60 months of collected data Representative sample; approximately 3 million households sampled per year All US Census geographies

*For more on choosing which ACS estimates to use, see "When to use 1-year, 3-year, or 5-year estimates" from the Census Bureau.

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